It took 138 days and 171 rides but popular jockey Keith Yeung Ming-lun is a winner again.
The 31-year-old snapped his significant run of outs at Sha Tin on Sunday, putting in a wire-to-wire effort aboard the Benno Yung Tin-pang-trained Voyage Star.
Sporting a shaved head, inspired by former Hong Kong-based jockey Sam Clipperton, Yeung used the rain-soaked Sha Tin track to his advantage by sending Voyage Star to the front in the Class Four Plantation Handicap (1,200m) and was never headed.
“The track changed [with rain], it was exactly my thinking [to go forward], he enjoyed the soft track and he performed really strongly on it,” he said.
“I didn’t know what to think when I was clear of them because I am so used to being passed by other horses, I kept my head down and kept on riding because I didn’t know what was going to happen.
“I couldn’t hear the other ones coming but he was slowing down just before the line and I’m there thinking ‘oh no, please keep going’ but he got there in the end.”
Despite the winless run dating back to November 20 last year when Yeung won on Hardly Swears at Happy Valley, the rider said he hasn’t changed his positive mindset.
“We are all here for results and it is nice when the hard work is paid off like it was today,” he said.
It was a drought-breaking day at Sha Tin with trainer Caspar Fownes also snapping a winless run at Sha Tin dating back to December.
While he is considered the King of the Valley, winners have been few and far between for Fownes at headquarters but that all changed thanks to Defining Moment in the Class Four Severn Handicap (1,600m).
Fownes had not trained a winner at Sha Tin since Sky Darci saluted under jockey Umberto Rispoli on December 1 last year.
While he has only chalked up eight wins at Sha Tin this season, he has 21 to his name at Happy Valley.
Fownes has also enjoyed big-race success this season with both Rise High and Southern Legend winning Group-level contests.
Southern Legend again showed his reliability on Sunday, running a dashing third place to Beauty Generation in the Group Two Chairman’s Trophy (1,600m) after enjoying a stint in Conghua.
“He’s got his China visa now,” Fownes joked after the run as he attempts to prepare him for a three-peat at Singapore’s Kranji Mile later this season – if it goes ahead.
Retirement looms for D B Pin
Trainer John Size has revealed Group One-winning sprinter D B Pin will retire at the end of the season.
The seven-year-old has consistently shown top-class ability but has been dogged by injuries throughout his career.
“He’s had some interruptions and he’s seven years old now, so we’ve got two more races and then he will retire,” Size said before his sixth placing in Sunday’s Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m).
“He is sound, he is working well, he’s healthy and enjoying his life so hopefully we get through these two races without any mishaps and he can enjoy a happy retirement.”
D B Pin announced himself by winning a stacked Group One Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) in 2018 which boasted the likes of Mr Stunning, Beat The Clock and Lucky Bubbles.
The horse also won the now infamous “rakegate” race at Happy Valley which has been wiped from history after a stray garden rake caused the barriers to malfunction, causing it to be declared a no contest.
While Size enjoyed his best month of the season to date with eight winners in March, the 11-time champion trainer believes adding a 12th title could be a bridge too far in 2019-20.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai and Francis Lui Kin-wai sit atop the trainers’ premiership with 46 and 45 wins apiece while Size only has 33 after Sunday’s meeting.
With 28 meetings left in the season at this stage, Size would have to make a late charge to grab a record 12th premiership.
“I don’t think [I can win] at the moment,” he said. “I just haven’t got the horses to come on, things can change quickly in that situation so I will keep trying and see where I finish up.”
Whyte to wait with Wealthy
Douglas Whyte’s exciting galloper Super Wealthy will not be seen again this season with the first-season trainer opting to err on the side of caution with the four-year-old.
Whyte said his 91-rater had minor knee surgery after his last win in March which rules him out for the rest of the term.
“He has had surgery on his knee, we could have persevered and continued but the owner and I had a discussion and we made the call to pull the pin,” he said.
“I think on what he has done and what I think he can do, there is a lot of upside and I refuse to take another chance this season for the sake of sacrificing him for big races next season.”
Whyte said the procedure on his knee went well and his stable star has returned to his Olympic Stables where he will be prepared for a charge at season 2020-21.
“He is back, he is walking around, he is happy health wise but he isn’t happy mentally because he wants to get to the track, he is a pure athlete,” he said.
Leadingstar on the march
After taking 15 starts to break through for his maiden Hong Kong win, Helene Leadingstar has won twice in as many starts after an impressive win at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The five-year-old came to Hong Kong on a rating of 86 after winning the Group One South Australian Derby (2,500m) but struggled last season, running fifth and ninth in the Classic Cup and Hong Kong Derby respectively.
With his win in the Class One Harlech Handicap (2,000m) on Sunday, Helene Leadingstar took his Hong Kong career earnings to more than HK$4.5 million.
The son of Wanted relished the rain-affected track to dash home under Karis Teetan from near-last to beat odds-on favourite Butterfield and Helene Charisma.