It would have required a miracle for Vincent Ho Chak-yiu to miss out on a spot in the International Jockeys’ Championship, but the leading local rider took chance out of the equation with a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Ho held a five-win break over Derek Leung Ka-chun heading into the meeting – the cut-off point for awarding spots in next month’s IJC – so he was unlikely to be ousted, but he slammed the door shut early with successes aboard Loriz and Naboo Star.
Surprisingly, the wins were the 29-year-old’s first at the city track this season, but his total of 13 was enough to make sure he snared the slot in the IJC allocated to the leading local rider.
It’s the second time he has earned a berth in the lucrative series and the trainer of Naboo Star – Ho’s former boss Caspar Fownes – was delighted to see his old apprentice get the recognition he deserves.
“Very happy, I’m very proud of Vincent,” Fownes said.
“He’s a young man who keeps working very hard to improve himself. You can see the way he’s riding that he’s a confident jockey now. He takes his time, he gives horses a chance and he’s very, very good. He deserves to be in the top few jockeys in Hong Kong.”
The fact Ho was able to get the best out of Naboo Star, who has been a frustrating horse, certainly pleased the popular trainer.
The five-year-old started $7.5 or shorter in his first seven starts without winning, but now that he’s broken through in his ninth run, Fownes hopes he can go on with it.
“He had a few problems here and there, so it’s hard to train them the right way. His last run at Sha Tin was good, he wasn’t beaten far,” he said.
“Hopefully the horse can go and win after this now that’s he’s learned to do the right thing and extend to win the race – it was quite a good effort. Luckily we had a good draw, Vincent rode the perfect race and the horse did his job nicely.”
Ho’s first winner, Loriz, came courtesy of Ricky Yiu Poon-fai, who enjoyed a big night with a treble.
Even though the handler was in New Zealand for the horse sales, it had no impact on his runners with Kanbeki Molly and Indigenous Star also saluting.
While Loriz was in the market, the other two were not, returning $29 and $28 respectively.
Indigenous Star gave Alex Lai Hoi-wing his second winner of the term while Kanbeki Molly took plenty out of jockey Chad Schofield, who was stood down soon afterwards with dehydration.
The treble lifted Yiu to the lead in the trainers’ championship with 17 winners, two ahead of Danny Shum Chap-shing.
Yiu’s success started a trend of trainers visiting New Zealand having success at the Valley, with Frankie Lor Fu-chuen, David Hall and Jimmy Ting Koon-ho all following suit.
The latter had a double and while Amazing Star won well, it was the red-hot Hardly Swears who really struck a chord, collecting his third straight win in the Class Three Australian Turf Club Trophy (1,200m).
The five-year-old has really found his feet this preparation and he showed his customary finishing burst again to prevail, but it came at a cost, with jockey Keith Yeung Ming-lun being hit with a suspension.
The Hall-trained Mr Lumieres (Matthew Poon Ming-fai) took out the Class Two Hydrangea Handicap, setting a new 1,000m track record.
The six-year-old clocked 56.25 seconds, eclipsing Sweet Sanette’s mark of 56.30 set in February 2010.
Champion jockey Zac Purton was the other jockey to collect multiple winners, saluting with Amazing Star and Reliable Team, while there was a bit of drama in the last with Shining Ace and Aurora Pegasus dead-heating.