Vincent Ho Chak-yiu tuned up for his weekend date with Golden Sixty and further tightened his vice-like grip on a Longines International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) berth with a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Ho, who climbs back aboard the returning Golden Sixty in the Group Two Jockey Club Mile on Sunday, moved to 18 wins for the season thanks to a running double to open the card aboard Happily Friends and Jazz Steed.
Second behind only Zac Purton in the premiership, Ho is all but certain to ride in the IJC as the leading local jockey – he is six winners clear of next-best local Matthew Chadwick – but would have got in on his championship standing anyway.
“I’m happy to have the chance to be involved,” Ho said about the IJC. “It’s a privilege to ride against all the top jockeys in the world, and I’m excited to have a chance to be in it.”
Ho, as the leading local, and the next two best performers in the premiership following next Wednesday’s Happy Valley meeting will join Purton in representing Hong Kong in the IJC at the city circuit on December 7.
Silvestre de Sousa has a mortgage on one berth after moving to 16 winners for the campaign with victory aboard Savvy Chic, while the final spot is well and truly up for grabs.
Chadwick is still well placed to compete, sitting on 12 victories after snaring a running double of his own with victories aboard Gold Marquis and Excellent Peers.
Alexis Badel (11), Lyle Hewitson (10), Luke Ferraris (10) and Matthew Poon Ming-fai (9) are also in the hunt with two meetings remaining to add to their tallies.
Ferraris and Poon were the two members of that quartet to taste success on Wednesday, with Ferraris delivering aboard Winning Dragon and Poon piloting Peter Ho Leung’s smart five-year-old Packing Award to his sixth win from 14 starts in the Class Two Tokyo Handicap (1,650m).
Elsewhere at the midweek meeting, apprentice jockey Angus Chung Yik-lai tasted success at the Valley for the first time, leading all the way aboard Circuit Elite to take out the Class Four Chukyo Handicap (1,800m) for his boss Tony Cruz.
Cruz rung up a double in the final race, saluting with Winning Dragon to jump to 18 victories for the term and maintain his one-win lead over Frankie Lor Fu-chuen at the top of the premiership.
Lor continued his impressive title defence with a double of his own, tasting success with Savvy Chic and Excellent Peers.
Elsewhere, Hugh Bowman’s roller-coaster week continued, with the Australian having to watch on as two gallopers he should have been riding – the Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Leslie and Caspar Fownes’ Gold Marquis – got the chocolates.
Bowman was stripped of his Valley rides after being deemed a close contact of a family member with Covid-19 following his arrival in Hong Kong on Sunday, but he was cleared to leave quarantine on Tuesday after the test result proved to be a false positive.
Meanwhile, Purton remains a chance to take part in Sunday’s feature meeting after testing positive to Covid on the weekend.
The Jockey Club confirmed on Wednesday that “based on the results to date it has been assessed that Purton can be declared for the race meeting”.
Purton must test negative on a rapid antigen test (RAT) on Saturday “to remain eligible to ride the following day”.
The star Australian must then pass another RAT on Sunday morning and meet “the club’s requirements under our internal protocols” to be cleared to take up his rides, which include Group Two mounts aboard California Spangle, Lucky Sweynesse and Beauty Joy.