Alfred Chan Ka-hei was feeling the pinch heading into the final event at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, with the pressure that comes with riding a favourite compounded by a nagging echo in his head of an earlier mistake that “cost me the win”.
Charged with delivering the goods aboard the Caspar Fownes-trained Sugar Sugar from the tricky gate nine, Chan settled his mount one off the fence in the middle of the pack before slicing through the field in the home straight.
The 28-year-old credits a mid-race decision to take a trail behind the white-hot Zac Purton, and a quick spot of reflection on the home turn, as the catalysts behind his first winner since May.
“I wanted to sit outside Zac, but there was some checking on the inside, and then he popped out,” Chan said.
“In the race, I was like, ‘Zac should be the one to follow’. You’ve no doubt in a race, if you follow Zac, he’ll bring you everywhere.
“I was happy to let him come out and then just follow him around. I’d made a mistake on Jazz Steed – I went too wide and it cost me the win – so on the corner I was reminding myself I wasn’t going to do it again.
“At that moment, on the corner, I was wondering if I should follow Zac out. But if I follow him out, I have to go behind him, and he is, of course, better than me in a finish. So when Zac moved out, I saw the inside gap open up, and I took a chance.”
Relieved his initiative paid dividends aboard Sugar Sugar, Chan hopes things will be a touch more straightforward aboard another Fownes-trained runner at Sha Tin on Sunday afternoon.
Chan has picked up the ride on the undefeated Big Me for the Class Four Parmigiani Fleurier Excellent Handicap (1,000m), with Fownes opting to use the jockey’s five-pound claim after the four-year-old went up seven points in the ratings following his debut victory under Luke Currie.
Big Me made life hard for himself on debut, putting his head down as the gates opened and coming out last before surging to victory.
“I know he’s got ability, to miss the kick and still win easy down the 1,000m straight like that,” Chan said. “I think he should improve on last time, and I think he’s a winning chance.”
Big Me beat Cheval Valiant home by a length and a quarter last time and meets Douglas Whyte’s galloper 11 pounds worse off at the weights this time after the South African handler’s booking of 10-pound claimer Angus Chung Yik-lai.
“We’re jumping from barrier five, and I think Cheval Valiant [in barrier six] is the one to beat. Hopefully, he jumps better and I can track him,” Chan said.
Chan expressed his gratitude to Fownes, for whom he still rides work six days a week after completing the latter stages of his apprenticeship under the four-time champion trainer.
“I’m very grateful I can work for Caspar. He’s helped me a lot since I moved to his stable. Hopefully, I can build up my rides, and in turn, find some more winners,” Chan said.