The fresh-faced hoop punched the Ricky Yiu-trained gelding to the fore approaching the final half-furlong. And, with Winner’s Way tiring under an impost 9lb heavier than his rival, Jolly Banner forged on for a three-quarter-length win at odds of 5.3. Top-weight Horse Of Fortune (133lb) closed for third, a half-length behind Winner’s Way.
“The plan today was to ride Jolly Banner a touch more patiently,” Schofield revealed, having berthed the son of Lonhro mid-pack in the eight-runner field, one spot off the fence. “He had a nice weight, and on the C course we thought the plan would give him a bit of a chance early and allow him to finish off, and he did.”
Schofield believes the consistent six-year-old could still enhance his Hong Kong record, which now reads five wins from 16 starts – and perhaps in pattern grade, too.
“He thrives when he’s fresh and he was pretty much on song today – he felt spot-on,” the rider said. “If Ricky can keep him fresh, there’s no reason why he can’t go into a Group race (handicap) with a light weight and be competitive.”
And Schofield, with two wins now on the board for this campaign, was delighted to bag a prominent feature so early in the term.
“In Hong Kong, even the Class 5s are hard to win, so to win a feature, a Class 1, is very satisfying,” he said. “And especially with this horse: he has a lovely bunch of owners and I’ve had a lot of success on him so long may it continue.”
Pingwu Spark (128lb) fulfilled the promise of a recent barrier trial to land the Class 3 Chaozhou Handicap (1200m) under a delighted Derek Leung. The grinning rider gave a fist pump for the cameras upon returning to the winner’s circle, after the strapping grey – returned the 2.2 favourite – had broken his Hong Kong maiden at start two.
“He did it all exactly as I wanted him to,” Leung said. “It took him a little while to pick-up and quicken, so I think it may be time to step up to 1400 metres. But he showed again that he’s a very honest horse with a big stride. I like him!”