Vincent Ho repaid the faith of his old master with a signpost victory aboard Rise High in the G3 Premier Plate Handicap (1800m) at Sha Tin this afternoon, Sunday, 23 June.
Rise High overcame top-weight of 133lb and a hefty bump at the top of the straight to post a dominant length and a quarter victory from Seasons Bloom (130lb), with Citron Spirit (128lb) third.
“They just got my hind quarters and I got a bit unbalanced. I waited and balanced him up and got going again,” Ho said after landing the final Group race of the Hong Kong season.
“I knew the horse was strong. Today he travelled a lot stronger than I expected and he was in a lovely position in midfield so I knew he’d take off. I let him start to pick up at the 600 (metres) and he has a great turn-of-foot.”
Trainer Caspar Fownes could have turned to Zac Purton for the feature contest but instead stayed loyal to his former apprentice while the all-conquering champion watched the 11-runner contest from the jockeys’ room.
“He could have easily taken me off after we ran second last time,” Ho said, referencing Rise High’s fast finish behind Hong Kong’s top stayer Exultant in the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m).
“Zac would love to be on him and I’m very grateful that (Caspar) kept me on, and also it’s my first Group race win for my old boss so I’m very happy,” he added.
Fownes acknowledged that he could indeed have turned to Purton, who has a record of three wins from seven rides on the Irish import.
“Zac is a superstar, he’s proven he’s the best rider here, along with Joao (Moreira); he’s a great jockey, especially in big-race situations but the opportunity was there for Vincent to retain the ride,” the handler said.
“Vincent did nothing wrong last time and even the fact that Zac was available, it wasn’t the right thing to do. Zac’s committed to Exultant going forward but he’s won three races on Rise High so it’s there, both boys have had success on the horse now.”