Pierre Ng Pang-chi experienced the highs and lows of racing on Wednesday, with the rookie trainer’s lowest-rated horse breaking his maiden under a world-class substitute jockey after a colic attack took the life of his fledgling stable’s star galloper, Lucky Patch.
Medic Elite won the Class Five France Handicap (1,650m) on the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) undercard with Ryan Moore in the saddle, whom Ng selected to replace Mickael Barzalona after the French rider tested positive to Covid-19 on race day.
But Ng arrived at Happy Valley for the biggest night on the city circuit’s calendar reeling from the death of Lucky Patch four days out from this year’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) at Sha Tin, the 2021 edition of which he started as favourite before being involved in the horror fall that injured four jockeys and led to the euthanisation of two horses.
“It’s sad to lose him,” said Ng of Lucky Patch, who won a couple of Group Two contests for Francis Lui Kin-wai before his 2021 Hong Kong Sprint fall and off-season transfer to the 39-year-old’s team.
“Now we only have one [in the Hong Kong Sprint]. We’ll make sure he’s goes well,” added Ng, referencing Duke Wai, whom British jockey Harry Bentley will partner in Sunday’s HK$24 million dash for cash.
Medic Elite gave Ng a welcome reason to smile, and while it was only a Class Five event, Bentley’s compatriot, Moore, was at his Group One best as Ng’s mediocre miler recorded his first victory.
“It’s been a while. He’s been trying hard. It was his fourth run in a month, so he’s a good athlete – a good warrior – and he fights every week,” Ng said.
“I told Ryan to get behind the speed and stay outside – don’t go inside – because the horse gets afraid around other horses, so he did 110 per cent.
“My replacement choice was pretty straightforward. It was Ryan or James McDonald. I didn’t think the horse would get another chance with Ryan in this class, so it was a lifetime experience for him. Maybe if I’d picked James, he’d have won as well.”
Elsewhere on the IJC undercard, Fearless Fire won the Class Four Australia Handicap (1,650m) under Luke Currie, the David Hayes-prepared miler’s first success since he won over the same trip on last year’s corresponding programme under Blake Shinn.
Hayes attributed Fearless Fire’s return to the winner’s circle to a significant gear change.
“I think the blinkers helped him. He was getting a bit cunning. The blinkers switched him on,” said Hayes of eight-year-old veteran Fearless Fire, who had not run in a set of shades since October 2020.
An hour later, Australian visitor Jamie Kah overcame a pre-race mishap on Douglas Whyte-trained Hearty Wish to take out the Class Five Japan Handicap (1,200m).
“She’s beautiful to watch,” said Whyte of Kah. “She gets horses in good positions. She gets them to switch off. What I like is she gets them to turn on without using the whip. When she does use the whip, they find another gear. She’s a neat rider.”
In other news, the Jockey Club gave four-time champion jockey Joao Moreira the green light to ride in Sunday’s Hong Kong International Races meeting, while Lucky Patch’s passing means John Size-prepared Courier Wonder has the right to complete the Hong Kong Sprint’s full field.