Horse Racing
New boy Domeyer bags a double, Callan strikes back at the Valley

By David Morgan
01/05/2019 23:59

Aldo Domeyer (orange silks) nails his first Hong Kong win.
Aldo Domeyer (orange silks) nails his first Hong Kong win.

Aldo Domeyer isn’t letting the grass grow under his feet. The South African only touched down in the city two days ago and already he has his first Hong Kong brace in the bag.

“Two wins on my first night, I couldn’t ask for much better!” he said.

Prance Dragon (130lb) carried the jockey to a momentous first in race five – section two of the Class 3 Cheung Sha Wan Handicap (1200m) – just half an hour after his debut ride at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 1 May). Arcada delivered the double in the finale, section two of the Class 3 Hung Hom Handicap (1650m).

“I think it matters that the first winner is in the winner’s box. I couldn’t ask for a better start and let’s hope it continues,” he said after nicking the spoils on Prance Dragon, by a short-head from Loving A Boom (125lb).

“I heard some notorious things about Happy Valley, about the course catching you out, but I just played it on merit and it seemed to pan out quite well. I must say the horses I rode here were in very nice condition so credit to Mr. Millard for that,” Domeyer said.

ldo Domeyer rallies Prance Dragon for a narrow win.

Trainer Tony Millard provided the rider with all three of his mounts on the eight-race card, and, after steering C P Power to seventh-place in the fourth, Domeyer repaid his compatriot’s support twice over.

“I didn’t have the best of breaks,” he said of his breakthrough ride on Prance Dragon, “but I found myself in a comfortable position and it was just a matter of choosing a nice run, finding a bit of balance and the rest just panned out quite nicely. It looked like the second horse was going to run right past him, which he did, but we just started holding a bit of momentum and fighting back and we got our nose down where it counted the most.”

And it was a similar story with Arcada (124lb). The five-year-old responded to Domeyer’s drive, dipping his nose right on the line to snare the verdict by a short-head from runner-up Vigor Fame (114lb).

“This was the one that I worked and I felt was really well. I just needed to warm him up and get him into the groove, he went down with his ears pricked and he was full of confidence,” the rider said.

“He was always going nicely; it was a matter of getting a nice run home. Once I asked him for a little bit extra and put the stick in the left he gave me and he fought down and got there when I needed him to.”

Aldo Domeyer seals a double on the Tony Millard-trained Arcada.
Aldo Domeyer seals a double on the Tony Millard-trained Arcada.

Domeyer is hoping to build on his good start.

“You always want to find a bit of momentum, there’s nothing like momentum to keep building up on something, it’s been a nice start and now it’s up to me to capitalise on it,” he said.

“You don’t want to put too much expectation on it otherwise you set yourself up to be let down a little bit. If you take things in your stride it just makes the job a little bit easier, so that you can slow things down a little bit. I just tried to do the basics and I’ll try the same thing with the next and see where that takes us. I don’t want to put a limit or a cap on what I’m trying to achieve, I’m going to go race by race to try to do as well as I can.”

Convergence for Callan

Neil Callan returns victorious on Jolly Convergence.
Neil Callan returns victorious on Jolly Convergence.

Neil Callan has had to grind out the winners this season and when top-weight Jolly Convergence took the Class 4 San Po Kong Handicap (1200m) it ended a run of 75 outs for the “Iron Man”.

Callan’s previous success had come on the same Richard Gibson-trained galloper. That was back on 13 March.

“Long time between drinks!” the Irishman said.

He didn’t have to wait long to sup again though – after Loving A Boom’s near miss behind Prance Dragon, and another runner-up finish on Last Kingdom in the sixth, Callan nailed a double on the Caspar Fownes-trained Perfect Glory in race seven, section one of the Class 3 Cheung Sha Wan Handicap (1200m).

“If you look at that long stretch without a winner, a lot of them were second, third or fourth so it’s not like I wasn’t performing, things were just not falling right for me,” he said. “That’s Hong Kong racing, it’s the most competitive scene in the world and you have to be able to take it.”

Jolly Convergence digs deep for Neil Callan.

In fact, 38 percent of Callan’s rides during his cold spell finished second, third or fourth, with 18 of his mounts in the “silver” or “bronze” berths. But with only 13 wins now on the board this term, the rider, noted for his tough style, has not allowed pressure to get him down.

“I put pressure on myself because I don’t want to go long stretches without winners,” he said, “I want to be winning all the time. The most important thing is that you don’t let yourself get down, you believe in yourself, you pick yourself up and nights like tonight make you appreciate what you have.

“Richard was quite keen to put a claimer on Jolly Convergence but I felt that he could win again in Class 4 with me on him.”

Gibson’s faith was well-placed as the 5.3 shot battled down the inner under a trademark Callan drive. The six-year-old – out of the G2 Queen Mary Stakes heroine Langs Lash – edged the Zac Purton-ridden front-runner Lucky Thought by a neck.

“I thought I’d be closer in the run but obviously they were going a little bit quick, so I was a length further back than I wanted to be. Mid-race the horse travelled and got back up on the bridle quite nicely and I knew from that point that he was going to finish. In the end he dug dep for me.”

Gibson said: “These are great horses to have in your stable – he’s game, he’s very honest and today we thought we had a fantastic chance with the good draw (3). He won well two starts ago when we were very confident. He had to dig deep tonight because Zac got a flyer and it’s great to see Neil perform so well.”

Neil Callan secures a double on Perfect Glory.
Neil Callan secures a double on Perfect Glory.

Callan’s win on Perfect Glory sealed a double for the Fownes stable. It was the handler’s Green Luck – under Zac Purton – that denied Callan on Last Kingdom in section one of the Class 3 Hung Hom Handicap (1650m).

The opener went to the game front-runner Mr Right, a seven-year-old graduate of the Hong Kong international Sale who notched his eighth win at start 60 and his 39th at the Valley. Victor Wong guided the Peter Ho-trained runner home.

Derek Leung teamed up with old boss Paul O’Sullivan to take race two on the former Gibson trainee Starlot. Grant van Niekerk enjoyed a comfortable win on the Dennis Yip-trained Gentry in the To Kwa Wan Handicap (1650m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 5 May.