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Jockey So all Sunny after victorious return to Happy Valley


By Andrew Hawkins

It was a triumphant return to Happy Valley for local rider Ben So tonight (Wednesday, 23 November) as he scored on St Yazin and Sunny Win at just his second meeting back from a medically-induced absence.

So had last ridden at the city track on 5 October, with his last ride that night a win on Peter Ho-trained Ten Flames.

However, a fall at the Sha Tin meeting on 8 October ruled the effervescent 29-year-old out for over a month, the jockey only making his return to race riding last Sunday.

“I’m very happy to be back!” So exclaimed after initially winning on St Yazin (114lb) in the first section of the Class 3 Kowloon City Handicap (1200m) before adding another on Sunny Win (116lb) in the second division of the Class 3 Hung Hom Handicap (1650m). “Coming back after a month off, and at just my second meeting back, to get a winner so quick is exciting. And two, amazing, very lucky.”

Ho-trained Sunny Win entered off a last-start victory in Class 4 at the Happy Valley day meeting on 30 October, but So said that this race represented a different prospect to last time out.

“The last time, he went forward in Class 4,” So explained after the short head defeat of long-time leader Happy Spirit. “But today, there looked a few horses that could go towards the lead and there looked to be a bit of speed for a 1650m race here. I still wanted to go forward, but at the first turn I had to ease because if I kept chasing, I would have been four wide.”

“So I sat behind them and when the speed slowed about the 1000m, I was able to move up easily. He had to fight but he is in good form and he found when it counted.”

Earlier, Gary Ng-trained St Yazin required the entire length of the short Happy Valley straight to reel in the leaders under So as he won by a nose over Arm Runda.

St Yazin had never won at 1200m at any track from 16 previous attempts in Hong Kong, but So said it was just simply a matter of getting the pace set-up he required.

“He is a horse that needs pace, and tonight, the pace really helped a lot as they went really fast,” he said. “I didn’t use him too much, I just sat back from the gate and it made his job easier. He has always been the same – he has a good sprint but he needs the speed. Maybe that’s why he has been better at 1000m.”

Eight-year-old St Yazin was the second leg of a “pair of eights” double for Ng after he earlier struck with fellow veteran Double Master in the opening race, the Class 5 San Po Kong Handicap (1000m).

Double Master (126lb) has had four trainers in his 26-start Hong Kong career and has had numerous issues that have hindered his progression. And Ng said immediately after the eight-year-old’s neck victory under Vincent Ho that it was his advantageous draw that made the difference.

“Double Master got very lucky tonight,” he said. “He’s had many problems since arriving in Hong Kong, leg issues. So the easier ground may have helped him. Even still, he raced well last season and he finally got what he deserved. He had a good draw, he was able to lead easy, he had the rail and I think that’s the best place to be.”

Trainer Chris So has been one of the early success stories of the 2016/17 season, and his win with honest galloper Sight Seeing in the second division of the Class 4 Kowloon City Handicap (1200m) sent him to the top of the trainers’ championship with 21 victories after 23 meetings.

So is in just his fourth season as a handler in Hong Kong, having formerly been an assistant trainer to the man he eclipsed at the top of the table in Caspar Fownes. And while he is excited about how his season is shaping so far, he admits it can turn around quickly.

“Obviously, it’s only early but I’m very happy with how my horses are going,” So said after Sight Seeing (121lb) just got up late under a vigorous Neil Callan ride. “This horse is just one example, he needs things to go his way but he always gives his all and he is flying in the mornings. He deserved that and hopefully there are more to come this season.”

Callan was also a crucial factor in bringing up a milestone for local trainer Me Tsui, who brought up his 400th win as a trainer in Hong Kong with Enormous Honour.

The six-year-old Australian import has been a gallant campaigner, finishing in the top four in 13 of his 23 local starts, but it was not until tonight that he managed to break his Hong Kong maiden in the first section of the Class 3 Hung Hom Handicap (1650m).

And it was a rails-scraping ride from Callan that proved the difference between winning and losing as the fearless Irishman willed the son of Encosta De Lago to a neck victory.

“He finally won! That was all Neil, great effort,” Tsui offered. “Hopefully I can train 400 more winners.”

Racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday with an 11-race card.

Ben So gets Sunny Win home in the last stride to record a double.
Photo 1:
Ben So gets Sunny Win home in the last stride to record a double.

St Yazin prevails to give Gary Ng a double with Ben So aboard.
Photo 2:
St Yazin prevails to give Gary Ng a double with Ben So aboard.



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