Jockey Jack Wong Ho-nam’s breakthrough win at Sha Tin on Saturday was made sweeter by the fact he willed himself back from a nasty fall at Happy Valley earlier in the season.
Wong was given an opportunity by red-hot trainer Francis Lui Kin-wai on Water Diviner in the Class Two Lantau Island Handicap (1,400m) and was able to grab it with both hands, holding out Good Standing and Young Legend in a bunched finish.
Water Diviner’s victory marked Wong’s first win since April and just his third in 2020.
The 26-year-old was left with a set of broken ribs and a fractured left foot after the fall in April which put him out of action for the best part of a month.
With a grim diagnosis, Wong was able to recover much quicker than expected to get himself back in the saddle but he admits there were still frustrations.
“After the fall, I was very disappointed because I was seeing horses that I maybe could ride go and win or get good results and I was there sitting on the bench, so I was a bit upset,” he said.
“The recovery was faster than what the doctor expected but the first couple of days back riding, it was still a bit sore.
“Once everything healed up properly and I was back to full fitness, I have pushed myself harder than I have before to try and catch up.”
Wong drew confidence from the fact he could possibly have a few results fall his way late in the season as tired horses begin to lose their form.
“I was telling myself, at the beginning and end of the season, for us lower jockeys, we can get a few results easier than we normally would because the horses are less predictable,” he said.
“Since the fall it has been quiet for me, it has been a quiet season actually, but it is good to be back with a winner.
“It is good to have a winner for Francis Lui. My performance hasn’t been right up there and it is hard to get back up quickly here in Hong Kong.
“I have been doing my best to get back fit after the fall, putting everything in place. I was very lucky today getting this ride, it seemed he had every chance and the step up to 1,400m was going to suit him.
“I saw it through and did the best I could and these kind of results help that.”
Opportunities have come few and far between for Wong since his fall with the three-pound claimer not riding one horse with single-figure odds in that time.
Magic Man grabs double
Superstar Joao Moreira snared a double at Sha Tin on Saturday, but he only cut Zac Purton’s lead in the championship race to six with the Australian also having a win of his own.
The Magic Man guided E Star home for Manfred Man Ka-leung before lifting the promising but frustrating Heza Beauty to his maiden victory.
“John [Size] has done most of the work just to teach Heza Beauty to settle down properly and only now has he been able to put it together and perform,” Moreira said. “We know he has ability and he should improve a lot more from this run.”
Moreira now has 131 wins for the term, compared to 137 for Purton, who tasted success with the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Angel Of My Eyes.
With just five meetings remaining, the Brazilian is running out of time to overhaul his rival given he will miss the Happy Valley card on July 8 through suspension.
Callan, Chau to be back midweek
Speaking of suspensions, after seven of them were handed out at the previous two meetings, Hong Kong’s jockeys were on their best behaviour on Saturday with no bans incurred.
However, the stewards were busy early in the meeting when Jerry Chau Chun-lok and Neil Callan had to be stood down.
The apprentice only lasted one ride before falling victim to dehydration, having to forgo his remaining six rides, while the Irishman, who had a winner in the opening race with Caspar Fownes’ Double Take, hurt his left hip after Jade Fortune misbehaved in the gates before the fifth event.
Both are expected to be OK to ride at Wednesday’s Sha Tin meeting.
Champions Awards finalists named
The finalists for Champions Awards have been announced and there aren’t too many surprises.
Beat The Clock and Mr Stunning are the two in line for the Champion Sprint prize, while Beauty Generation, Golden Sixty, Southern Legend and Waikuku are in the running for Champion Miler.
Exultant and Golden Sixty go head-to-head for the Champion Middle-Distance Horse gong, while the former will be named Champion Stayer after being the only nomination.
This is the first time the Champion Four-Year-Old has been awarded with Derby hero Golden Sixty and Moore’s sprinter Thanks Forever vying for the title.
The Champion Griffin category is the most open, with California Rad, Good Luck Friend, Lucky More, Sky Darci and Wellington the five youngsters in line for the honour.
The main prize – Horse of the Year – will come from one of the winners of their respective categories (excluding Champion Griffin).
HKIS graduate salutes on Gold Coast
There are few things that get Jockey Club officials excited quite like one of their International Sale Griffins (ISG) winning in dominant fashion on debut just weeks out from their July sale.
So the win of Super Contender on Friday afternoon was sure to get their attention, but there was a catch.
The victory wasn’t in Hong Kong, in fact, it was no where near Sha Tin at all. It was on the Gold Coast, Australia and it was trained by Chris Waller.
The four-year-old went under the hammer in the 2019 March International Sale for HK$5.2 million, sold to the Healthy & Happy Racing Syndicate who has retained ownership for his new career Down Under.
Super Contender on debut in a maiden @ the Gold Coast maintains Kodiac’s recent momentum, after his stellar run @ Royal Ascot.— John Baxter (@sotc666) June 26, 2020
Super Contender was heavily backed from $13 into $4.8 and won accordingly, swooping from midfield to salute by four lengths.
Formerly trained by Danny Shum Chap-shing, Super Contender was quickly retired and shipped out to Australia.
For their troubles, connections collected A$11,650 (HK$62,000) for the win, a far cry from the monster prize money on offer in Hong Kong with Saturday’s Class Five winner Double Take collecting HK$413,250.