By David Morgan
Caspar Fownes and Vincent Ho teamed up to snare a late double at Happy Valley tonight, Wednesday, 28 September. The pair carried off the featured Citi Sprint Challenge Cup Handicap (1200m) with the aptly-named 46/1 shot, Both Lucky, and the Class 2 finale thanks to Sichuan Dar.
Ho was registering his first wins this term; Fownes, victories five and six – two more to his Valley tally as he aims to recapture the unofficial crown as king of the downtown venue.
“We’ve finished the night with a flourish,” said Hong Kong’s three-time champion trainer after stealing the headlines in the night’s final two contests. “I was sweating, I thought I’d come here and get three tonight and then I looked at the draws and I was gutted, so it’s a nice way to finish off the night.”
Both Lucky set the ball rolling in race seven with a deep-closing run under a cool ride from Ho.
“That was beautiful,” Fownes said. “We’ve worked really hard on this horse; he’s had a lot of problems. Last season he came here and was favourite with Joao Moreira on at the last Valley meeting and he was withdrawn lame. He came back and was just giving us problem after problem, so it’s been nice to nurse him through it and get him feeling comfortable.”
The Rock Of Gibraltar gelding looked to be well inside his comfort zone when passing the post a length and a half to the good over the 2.7 favourite, Hang’s Decision.
Ho had settled the five-year-old one from the tail in the 12-runner contest as the Kei Chiong-ridden Wonderful Journey steamed along in the vanguard. A dozen lengths down turning for home, Ho kept his head and as the leader wilted Both Lucky powered home, sealing the result with 50 metres to race.
“It was a good effort, he’s won really strongly through the line,” said Fownes. “I said to Vincent, ‘just take him back and come through them, the horse is really well and I’m sure he’ll run a good race’. He wasn’t 100 percent fit but I knew if they went hard he’d give a good kick. Vincent rode him beautifully.
“He actually ran well for me down the straight at Sha Tin but I think this track is probably better for him. I wouldn’t mind trying him around the Sha Tin six furlongs but at this stage we’ll stick with what’s working here because if he draws a gate he can sit a bit handier as well.”
Sichuan Dar took his Hong Kong score to two from 10 with a half-length verdict in the finale, the Class 2 Wistaria Handicap (1650m). The five-year-old broke his local maiden at the course and distance at his final attempt last season and backed up first-up this term as he scooted down the fence to overhaul 2.9 favourite Dynamism close home.
“He’s a nice horse,” Fownes said, “he showed us that here last time he came, when he won first time at this track. I kept him for this race, he had a couple of nice trials, I got him fit in his last trial and he had a good prep leading into this. It was a lovely ride, he snuck up the inside and that was the winning factor there. He was strong on the line; he’s a horse that likes to chase; he’s got a bit of spunk about him and he’ll run even further.
“He ran a few nice races without winning early on in the piece and you knew ‘oh, he’s got something there’ but now he’s run with it, so hopefully he can get into triple figures.”
Another jockey in double form was Chad Schofield, successful aboard the Tony Millard-trained Mi Savvy Boy in the first and the Ricky Yiu-trained Graceful Kingdom in race three. The young hoop missed the first three meetings of the season due to suspension but has hit his stride quickly upon returning, tonight’s brace taking his win total to four for the season.
Trainers Richard Gibson and Gary Ng both hit the target for the first time this term, as did jockey Alvin Ng. Shining Champion landed race four for Gibson, under Neil Callan, while trainer Ng teamed up with Douglas Whyte to prevail with Very Rich Man in race five. Jockey Ng scored atop the Tony Cruz-trained Happy Spirit in race six.
Champion jockey Joao Moreira was on the mark in tandem with the Danny Shum-trained Who’sthedude in race two.
Hong Kong racing resumes at Sha Tin on Saturday, 1 October when the National Day races will feature the G3 National Day Cup (1000m) and the G3 Celebration Cup (1400m).
Jockey Chad Schofield seals a double at Happy Valley on the Ricky Yiu-trained Graceful Kingdom.
Vincent Ho keeps his cool aboard Both Lucky in Race Seven.
Sichuan Dar brings up a double on the night for Ho and trainer Caspar Fownes.