Exuberant French jockey Olivier Doleuze turned the clock back at Happy Valley on Wednesday night in a fashion that had hairs standing up on the backs of necks when Winfull Patrol scraped home in the first race.
The first leg of a winning double for both Doleuze and trainer Richard Gibson, Winfull Patrol was clinging to his lead in the Class Five going into the final 50m, having shaken off the challenge of Whistle Up, and Doleuze was reaching for one of his trademark celebrations as the post loomed up.
Unseen by Doleuze though, another greybeard Glory Horsie (Zac Purton) was finishing with a withering burst from directly behind him and flashed on the line to just miss.
It was a reminder of Doleuze’s early days in Hong Kong, when his enthusiastic celebrations, even in relatively close finishes, caused the stewards to ask him to dial things down a bit.
After 1445 days out of the winners' circle and 35 winless starts since January 2014, Winfull Patrol takes the opener at Happy Valley under @ODoleuze #HKRacing #HappyWednesdayHK pic.twitter.com/0CFS2IK0Aa— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) December 20, 2017
“Lucky for me I won tonight or maybe I’d be having Christmas somewhere else,” said Doleuze, after his first win for Gibson in two-and-a-half years.
“Winfull Patrol stops very quickly but he also doesn’t like the whip so you can’t hit him or he will stop even quicker. It’s tricky. But I used to ride him a long time ago, when he was starting off in Class Four and I always liked the horse so it’s nice to win on him again. He has a lot of speed so he had to be a good chance in this race today and it was easier leading from barrier one.”
Doleuze has had a quiet start to the season but things seem to be turning, and champion trainer John Size provided him with a second winner, Arm Runda, later in the night.
Size is just two behind trainers’ championship leader Frankie Lor Fu-chuen now after a double.
“Arm Runda’s last run looked pretty good form for a midweek at Happy Valley, finishing two lengths behind Key Witness at Sha Tin on international day,” Size said. “I was pretty sure he’d be in the finish if he brought that run here.
“The earlier winner, Har Har Heart wasn’t strong enough to be competitive in his first runs last season, but he’s much stronger as a four-year-old. I knew the mile would suit him better than the shorter races he had been in and Matthew Chadwick gave him an 11 out of 10 ride. Actually, I would have said he was disappointing if he didn’t win with the ride he got.”
Away from the activity on the track, which included a dismissed protest in the second race, there was some action in the stewards’ room over a trackwork mix-up and Tony Cruz was ultimately fined HK$5,000 for working Group One performer Pakistan Star in the saddlecloth of his ownermate, Class Three galloper Pakistan Baby.
“I was really happy about the work, I thought ‘wow, this Pakistan Baby is really flying’,” Cruz said. “Then I followed him back to the stable and realised they’d put the wrong saddlecloth on. I don’t think it’s very fair that I was fined – if it was my staff who made the mistake, I guess that’s fair enough. But it was the Jockey Club staff who put on the wrong saddlecloth and I have to pay for their mistake. How is that fair?”
There were doubles all over the card, with Gibson, Doleuze and Size joined by Zac Purton and Paul O’Sullivan after they completed their pairs with Archippus in the last race.
O’Sullivan won earlier with Rule Thee (Chad Schofield) in the Class Three over 2,200m but fears the five-year-old is in the wrong jurisdiction.
“There really aren’t enough races for him at this sort of distance,” he said. “He tries hard but he’s very dour and that makes him limited in Hong Kong.”
Meanwhile, apprentice Matthew Poon was outed for two meetings and fined HK$25,000 for his ride on Kirov.