Horse Racing
Vincent Ho all but secures place in the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship

By Steve Moran
15/11/2018 00:10

Gentle Breeze wins the Nakayama Handicap with Vincent Ho atop.
Gentle Breeze wins the Nakayama Handicap with Vincent Ho atop.

Vincent Ho lands his 14th winner of the season which should secure him an IJC spot.
Vincent Ho lands his 14th winner of the season which should secure him an IJC spot.

Star local jockey Vincent Ho’s 14th winner for the season, recorded on the Ricky Yiu-trained Gentle Breeze tonight (Wednesday 14 November) at Happy Valley, might be worth more to the 28-year-old than just the usual winning rider’s percentage.

Ho drew level with fellow local rider Matthew Poon on that tally and that should guarantee him the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship spot allocated to the leading homegrown rider (a graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School).

That leading position is determined by standings after the Happy Valley race meeting on Wednesday 21 November but Poon cannot add to his tally before the cut-off as he is now suspended until 1 December.  Ho’s greater number of second placings would secure the local place on countback, ahead of Poon, for the 5 December international challenge (provided, of course, his winning tally remains greater than any other eligible local rider, which looks almost certain).

As it stands, after tonight’s meeting, Ho would secure one of the two places allocated to all-comers in Hong Kong and Poon would therefore also win a place if Ho is still outright third in the premiership after the 21 November fixture and Poon is still the leading local.

“Of course I’d definitely like to get the chance to compete in the IJC but my focus is really just to keep riding my best and get the good results like this one. This horse (Gentle Breeze) is still a baby, still green and there’s plenty of improvement to come,” Ho said.

It would be Ho’s second IJC appearance, having finished fifth in 2014, and still something of a fairytale for the man who ‘carried the towels’ for the stars of the IJC show when he was still at apprentice’s school.

Derek Leung returned from suspension to break long run of outs.
Derek Leung returned from suspension to break long run of outs.

Leung wastes no time in returning to winner’s list with welcome success for Chang

Jockey Derek Leung headed to Happy Valley tonight, after a six-meeting ban, with the hope that a losing run of 48 rides would be soon put behind him and success came swiftly.

The dual winner of the Tony Cruz Award (presented to the season’s leading home-grown rider), produced a gem on the Michael Chang trained Dutch Windmill to win the opening race of the night - beating none other than current champion and premiership leader Zac Purton.

The two were side by side for much of the race with the perfect stalking trails behind the two leading horses. Purton’s mount Wonderful Tiger was tucked third on the fence with Leung on his outside in the coveted ‘one-one’. The rails run came for Purton but Leung peeled Dutch Windmill to the outside and under a vigorous ride, the gelding was able to notch his fourth win at the course and distance and provide Leung with his sixth for the season.

Trainer Chang, who’d trained just one previous winner this season, spoke for most when he described Leung as ‘a good lad and a very strong local jockey’ who deserved his opportunities while Leung simply said: “That’s what I wanted, very happy. Getting winners is the most important thing.”

“That was good. He’s a very honest horse with a good record at the course and distance and tonight he had a light weight, a good gate and a good jockey,” said Chang, who added that he was looking forward to the imminent addition of new horses from England and France. “We will get some new blood in the stable which we need but at the moment it’s just a case of doing the best with what we have,” he said.

The second race went to another local trainer Manfred Man, with Umberto Rispoli piloting Peace On Earth to a strong-finishing victory while another local Chris So was left to lament being condemned to minor placings in the opening two races.

Lor knocks out most punters with longshot winner and Van Niekerk doubles up

Trainer Frankie Lor’s 10th winner of the season was Looking Good, in the Chukyo Handicap, but it wasn’t looking quite so good for most punters with the gelding scoring at odds of better than 50/1, returning a win dividend of $541.50.

Looking Good wins the Chukyo Handicap as a longshot.

Looking Good had beaten just two horse home in his two previous starts and Lor conceded that it was ‘big surprise’ to see him win. “Perhaps it was the combination of blinkers first time and Happy Valley first time,” he said.

The winner was ridden by Grant Van Niekerk who, just last week, recorded his first success on the city track. This victory generated some huge multiple dividends including a $142,695 quartet on numbers 5-3-2-7.

Blinkers, in this case for the second time, also did the trick on R5 winner All You Know, who was ridden by Alexis Badel for trainer Richard Gibson. The two also combined to win with Wishful Thinker at last week’s  Happy Valley meeting.

Van Niekerk completed a double aboard Ambitious Heart, trained by David Ferraris, in the Japan Racing Association Trophy. The 11-1 chance impressed with a tenacious nose win over 1.5 favourite Country Star, ridden by Purton. “He dug deeply and I thought he’d hung on, well I was semi-confident. My confidence is building here and the ball’s starting to roll for me,” said Van Niekerk, who now has ten winners in his first Hong Kong season.

Grant Van Niekerk completed a double on Ambitious Heart for trainer David Ferraris.
Grant Van Niekerk completed a double on Ambitious Heart for trainer David Ferraris.

A nose was also the margin of victory which afforded Sam Clipperton a fourth winner of the season, aboard Rule Thee for Paul O’Sullivan, and condemned Purton to the runners-up stall for the third time.

Indeed, it looked like Purton nor immediate pursuer Karis Teetan would both draw a blank on a Hong Kong card for the first time this season until the Mauritian secured a last stride, last race win aboard Super Chic.

Hong Kong racing continues on Sunday 18 November at Sha Tin with three G2 contests including the Hong Kong Horse of the Year Beauty Generation contesting the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile.