Horse Racing
Ho hits 300 with a night-capping hat-trick

By David Morgan
06/02/2020 00:02

Vincent Ho gets his 300th Hong Kong win.
Vincent Ho gets his 300th Hong Kong win.

Vincent Ho collected his 300th Hong Kong win at Happy Valley tonight (Wednesday, 5 February) when he delivered Massive Pocket on a late burst to land section two of the Class 3 Sports Road Handicap (1200m).

Fittingly, Ho’s main patron Francis Lui provided the milestone success, a win that edged the handler to a narrow lead in the trainer’s premiership. The rider was, as ever, level-headed in victory – landmark or not – as he rounded out the card with a hat-trick in the night’s final three contests.

“I’m definitely pleased to reach the 300 but I didn’t really count the numbers, I just knew when people told me I was almost there,” Ho said.

“Massive Pocket ran well from that gate (12) – he jumped ok and I knew the pace was on so I slotted in and got him to relax. But the horse I was following wasn’t going anywhere, he wasn’t helping at all, and the one on the inside was just staying there so I couldn’t get on the fence – eventually, and luckily, the gap opened on the inside and he flew home.

Massive Pocket flies late for Ho’s 300

“He has a good turn-of-foot but a very short sprint so it actually helped him when I got held up a little bit – he was able to produce that short burst.”

Just one race after hitting the round number, Ho moved onto 301 when he drove Naboo Star home for his old master Caspar Fownes.

“Vincent has always shown that he had a lot of potential as a jockey,” Fownes said of his former stable apprentice. “He’s worked to hone his skills and now he’s the real deal – you could take him anywhere in the world, put him on any horse and he’s going to get the job done.”

That is due in no small part to the rider’s dedication in heading to Europe each year to learn and develop. He has spent the past two summers in England based at Mark Johnston’s stable and prior to that he gained valuable experience over several off-season stints in France,

“He’s up there, he’s a world class jockey,” Fownes continued. “He rides them very cool, he’s in the zone, his timing is really good and he’s got a clock in his head for pace. He’s doing really well and I’m proud of him, and he deserves all the success he’s having.”

Ho and Lui celebrate three wins each.
Ho and Lui celebrate three wins each.

Ho stormed the last race, section one of the Class 3 Sports Road Handicap (1200m) on the Lui-trained This Is Class to take his season’s tally to 34 wins, of which 14 have been in tandem with Lui including the recent Hong Kong Classic Mile on Golden Sixty.

Lui, meanwhile, moved ahead of long-time championship leader Ricky Yiu with 35 wins thanks to his own treble on the night, initiated when Matthew Chadwick drove the 32/1 shot Fox Cheunger to success in the opener, the Class 5 Bowrington Handicap (1200m).

Methane sparks for Hewitson

Lyle Hewitson guides Methane home.
Lyle Hewitson guides Methane home.

Lyle Hewitson has found a loyal ally in trainer David Ferraris and the pair teamed up with Methane to land the night’s trophy race, the Class 4 Craigengower Cricket Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1650m).

Hewitson endured a long lean run before opening his Hong Kong account at the end of December and his two wins since, both at the Valley, have come aboard Ferraris gallopers – his fellow South African has provided him with 51 of 205 rides this term.

“Opportunities have been better. When you get your first win under your belt and you get good results, you start to ride with a lot more confidence and trust your judgement,” Hewitson said.

“All winners in Hong Kong are special, especially when you’re starting out. It’s fantastic to win a trophy race but it’s important for me regardless of whether it’s Class 5 or Class 1. It’s great to be on the board once again, and building momentum is so important.”

Methane gets his first win at start five

Methane, a 15/1 shot, had learned what was required of him through four defeats over shorter distances and arrived at the Valley primed for his first attempt at 1650m.

“If a horse is going to be decent he will always show something over a shorter trip and that’s what he did,” Ferraris said. “He was a little bit disappointing the start before last but after that his most recent start impressed me, he finished off really nicely, and he was working really well going into this race, so we were pretty confident.

“He’s won a hell of a good race, he’s a very nice little horse this – it’s just a shame the owner (Andrew Shuen) is in England.”

Hewitson, 22 and already a two-time champion in South Africa, settled Methane midfield. The four-year-old peeled out on the turn for home, quickened to the lead with 200m to race and scored by three quarters of a length in 1m 39.90s.

“He went through a little bit of a growing phase and he just needed to step up in trip, he was a little bit uncomfortable over the six furlongs and he’s been working up a storm at home. He had the right trip, a pretty fair draw and today everything went to plan,” Hewitson added.

Another Van Niekerk double

Grant van Niekerk guides Thunder Stomp to success.
Grant van Niekerk guides Thunder Stomp to success.

Jockey Grant van Niekerk has maintained his good form since the start of the year, and, after a double on Sunday, followed up with a brace this evening to make it 28 wins for the campaign so far.

The South African galvanized the Me Tsui-trained Good For You (129lb) to nick the Class 4 Percival Handicap (1200m) by a short-head in a head-bobbing duel with California Rad (124lb); about 30 minutes later he rolled clear in the Class 4 Wong Nai Chung Handicap (1650m) on the same trainer’s top-weight Thunder Stomp (133lb).

“It’s going well – I just have to stay out of the stewards’ room!” said Van Niekerk, who has a careless riding suspension deferred until the end of this month.

“Thunder Stomp came out so quickly and he’s got such a big action I opted to use it. I got away with a little bit of murder in the beginning because I went quite slow, and, half-way round the turn, when I asked him to extend he responded.”

Good For You edges California Rad in a thriller

Winning Ways is perhaps not the most aptly-named horse but the Danny Shum-trained six-year-old was game for Zac Purton as he took the Class 4 Canal Handicap (1000m) – his first Hong Kong win at the 22nd attempt.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Saturday, 8 February.