By Andrew Hawkins
Evergreen French jockey Olivier Doleuze has put a February to forget behind him upon his return to racing, sharing riding honours with Zac Purton after both men scored a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (8 March).
After Joao Moreira’s record eight-win haul at Sha Tin last Sunday (5 March), normal proceedings resumed at Happy Valley on Wednesday with the victories more evenly spread. From eight races, six jockeys and seven trainers found the winners’ circle, with Moreira taking the opening Class 5 Luard Handicap (1000m) on Me Tsui-trained Show Mission to continue his recent run of good form.
But it was Doleuze, indisposed after injuring his right foot in an incident at Happy Valley on 15 February, who captured attention, finding the winners’ circle twice at his first meeting since. His victory on John Size-trained Arm Runda (132lb) in the Class 4 Jaffe Handicap (1200m) provoked a typically exuberant Doleuze celebration, while he capped his night with a win on Caspar Fownes’ Victory Marvel (133lb) in the second section of the Class 3 Arsenal Handicap (1200m).
“As soon as I got the green light from the doctor, I was determined to come back as quick as possible,” Doleuze said. “Actually, I had not been able to do any fitness work on my legs for three weeks so they will feel a bit sore tomorrow. I think I would have been fully fit in a week or so, but John Size called me and offered me two rides. You know with his horses they are always decent chances, so I wanted to make sure I was ready for this meeting. I’m so glad I did!”
Arm Runda was Doleuze’s winner for Size, the trainer also scoring a double after earlier winning the Class 4 Lockhart Handicap (1000m) with Perpetual Joyance (131lb). Doleuze said he was confident Arm Runda would be competitive up in class with a light weight.
“It was a good run,” he said. “He’s very laidback in the run and you really have to get after him to be competitive, he looks after himself. But that also makes him a good Hong Kong horse too because he just does what he has to, he is never too flash.”
Doleuze completed his night on Victory Marvel for Fownes, with the trainer suggesting the I Am Invincible four-year-old still had enough improvement in him to become a potent force in Class 2.
“The horse normally pings the gates, but I thought there might be a bit of speed in there,” Fownes said. “So I told Olivier, if anything, don’t be afraid to ride him a little quieter. The horse knows what it is about now, he’s really developing and keeps improving. He’s a nice horse, you can see by the looks of him he’s there all the time, he’s so consistent, every start he gives you everything.
“I still think he’s got a bit more left in him, though. He’s still green and running all over the shop, especially when he doesn’t have the rail to follow through like what happened there. I’m very happy for Oli, too, it’s good to see him come back after what happened but he’s come back great, clearly.”
Australian rider Purton, also shared honours with a double anchored by German-bred Andoyas in the Class 3 Gloucester Handicap.
“That was a bit scary, wasn’t it?” handler David Hall said with a hint of relief after Andoyas collared Almond Lee-trained Happy Rocky in the final stride of the 1800m contest to make it two wins on the trot. “That’s the second time in a row it’s looked like he wouldn’t get there but he’s been quite genuine and got to the line strongly to score again.”
Hall, who was flanked in the winners’ circle by father Joe, said the 2014 G2 German 2,000 Guineas (1600m) fourth had taken time to come right in Hong Kong but was now showing his true form.
“He needed every bit of the 1800m, coming back from the 2200m,” the trainer said. “I think the good gallop helped him a lot, but he’s a typical European horse that has taken a long time to acclimatise. He’s become a little more solid this season, though, he was racing well last season but he’s just handling it a bit better this time in. And he’s had a fairly light season so he’s the fresh horse on the scene.
“Dropping back in trip was a bit of a worry but he had the six weeks between runs and got the speed and he’s been quite genuine, doing it again tonight. Obviously, I’d love to see a mile and a half race for him somewhere, because I think he’s got his name written all over one of them, but I doubt he’ll get his rating up enough for the (G3) Queen Mother Memorial Cup. We might just look for another 2200m race, if there is one.”
Andoyas was the second winner for Purton, who earlier teamed up with Lee to win the Class 4 Hong Kong Football Club Centenary Challenge Cup Handicap (1650m) on Excellence (122lb).
“Before he won his first race in Class 5, he had performed well in Class 4,” Lee said. “It took him a long time to acclimatise, so once he came good, he performed well. And since his win, he’s been racing very well, he’s just had a bit of bad luck. It was good to see him do it again, although he is a small horse so the extra weight might be tough now.”
Hong Kong racing returns to Sha Tin on Sunday (12 March) for a 10-race card, with the opener scheduled for 1pm.
Olivier Doleuze celebrates as he returns to the winners�� circle aboard John Size-trained Arm Runda, who took out the Class 4 Jaffe Handicap (1000m).
Caspar Fownes-trained Victory Marvel (red) gets his head down to win the second section of the Class 3 Arsenal Handicap (1200m) under Olivier Doleuze.
Zac Purton drives Andoyas (maroon and grey) through to win the Class 3 Gloucester Handicap (1600m).