A new year appears to have brought a welcome change of fortune for Ruan Maia, who ended a long losing run at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
The Brazilian jockey had a fantastic end to 2022 off the track, welcoming his new baby daughter into the world, but he had found the going tough on the course.
After a decent return of four victories in September and October, Maia had gone more than two months without a trip to the winner’s enclosure before Top Top Tea triumphed in the first section of the Class Four Mut Wah Handicap (1,200m).
With no success since Chancheng Prince’s victory on October 26, Maia was delighted to taste the winning feeling again and bring his 70-ride losing run to an end.
“I’m very happy because it’s been two months without a winner, but I keep working and keep my head up. Sometimes, the right horse comes to your hand, and this one ran well first start from a bad draw,” Maia said.
“He ran nicely then, so I was 100 per cent confident he could win. I’m so happy with this win.”
While Maia was snapping a losing streak, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu was continuing to ride winners, with another treble lifting his tally to 37 for the season.
Ho saved the best for last at Happy Valley, saving every yard of ground when nipping up the inside rail to take out the Class Three Hip Wo Handicap (1,200m) on Gold Gold Baby, who was winning his fourth race this term.
Now Ho has ridden 12 winners at the past five meetings after victories for Legion Of Merit in the first section of the Class Four Tsun Yip Handicap (1,650m) and All Beauty in the Class Three Hoi Yuen Handicap (1,650m).
King Eccellente broke through last time, and he proved it was no fluke when coming out on top in a thrilling finish to the second section of the Mut Wah Handicap (1,200m), with Douglas Whyte feeling there may be more to come from his galloper.
“The horse has just improved,” Whyte said. “He was a bit timid, weak and immature, and it’s taken me a good year and a half with him. The weights indicated as much. He’s put on 17 pounds since his last race, and he’s looking good, but he’s been doing everything correctly at work and especially at the races, so I’m just happy with the way the horse is mentally settling in.”
King Eccellente was not the only back-to-back winner on Wednesday night’s Happy Valley programme, with Faribault the latest horse to advertise the training talents of rookie handler Pierre Ng Pang-chi when saluting in the Class Four Hung To Handicap (1,000m).
Faribault had been successful under Zac Purton on his last start when beating Juneau Flash, but the Australian rider deserted him this time around in favour of the runner-up, who was heavily backed throughout the meeting into $1.60 favouritism.
But Purton missed the break on the John Size-trained maiden and was never travelling fluently, with front-runner Faribault gamely hanging on under Purton’s replacement, Silvestre de Sousa, who saluted the judge for the 24th time of what continues to be a fine campaign for him.