Vincent Ho stole the show at Sha Tin on Saturday with a thrilling four timer while champion jockey Zac Purton had to settle for just one winner and a string of strongly fancied chances who failed to come up to scratch.
The ultra-consistent Victory Boys ensured Purton didn’t go home winless with a stylish reappearance success in the Class 2 Tsuen Fu Handicap, but local talent Ho outshone him with four dynamic wins which took him to eleven winners for the season and cemented his position as clear third in the jockeys’ table.
Ho set the ball rolling with a dramatic last-to-first surge aboard Francis Lui’s Glittering Armour in Race 3 and doubled up for the same handler in Race 5 when Fortunate Runner forged clear in the Chinese General Chamber Of Commerce Cup.
Vincent Ho celebrates his best day yet in Hong Kong, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
The popular 28-year-old gave Me Tsui’s Go Public a superb ride to bring up his treble in the Class 3 Yan Chai Trophy Handicap, gradually building momentum with a combination of force and finesse to lead in the final strides, while even better was to follow when stablemate Ugly Warrior took his career record to five wins from six AWT runs with a commanding success in the Tsuen Lok Handicap.
Tsui described the winning rider as “on fire” as he sealed the first fourfold of his career, while Ho feels a combination of hard work and a summer trip to the UK based with leading Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston are yielding their rewards this term.
“I try to work hard in every aspect of my job 24 hours a day in relation to diet, training, recovery and physio and I’m so pleased that the support and results have come my way so far this season,” he said.
“Ryan Moore gave me good advice about riding in the UK and Mr Johnston always stressed that it is important for jockeys to use their instinct to judge what pace suits a horse.
He added: “I’m sure that I’ve come back to Hong Kong with more confidence this season and I now have to keep the hard work going to make the most of this great start.”
Ho has long held Ugly Warrior in high regard and mentioned him as one who could even graduate to dirt races at the Dubai Carnival last season.
Tsui says he “will let the horse tell us whether he is ready for that” but paid tribute to the way Ho checked inside to avoid a punishing battle for the lead and is eyeing a similar AWT contest for Ugly Warrior in early December next.
Ho would have gone very close to making it five wins from just six rides but for traffic problems aboard fourth-placed Noble Steed in Race 10.
Invincible Fresh took full advantage of the trouble in behind and survived a lengthy inquiry and an objection from connections of runner-up Lady First to give Karis Teetan a treble which leaves him just one behind Purton at the top of the jockeys’ table.
O’Sullivan breaks his duck and looks to Conghua for future success
Paul O’Sullivan was all smiles after becoming the last of Hong Kong’s 22 trainers to get off the mark for the season when Willie Way landed Race 2 to give Teetan his second winner of the day and promptly hinted at a change in policy designed to leave the blocks more quickly in future.
"We retired a lot of horses last season, including good servants like Archippus, and I knew we’d start slowly this year,” he said.
“But having Conghua to prepare horses is going to be absolutely outstanding,” he added. “A facility like that gives you the opportunity to finish a horse in May then trial him in the summer and come down here ready to roll when the season starts.”
Tony Millard continued his flying start to the season and notched his tenth success from just 52 starters in Race 1 when Strathallan (121lb) saluted at the fourth attempt, showing speed throughout and battling on well for Teetan to beat promising newcomer Hainan Star (120lb) by a neck.
Millard felt Strathallan’s previous experience proved crucial and, with Nassa, Singapore Sling and South African G1 winner Northern Superstar (formerly Edict Of Nantes) waiting in the wings, he kept things short and sweet when asked about his wealth of emerging talent.
“Strathallan is a nice horse who can improve over 1200m,’ he said. “And this is the best string of young horses I’ve ever had.”
Recent Sha Tin scorer Super Star is one of those horses and Happy Tour – another son of Snitzel sourced at the HKIS in March – looked promising when making all for Danny Shum and Chad Schofield in Race 6.
Shum said: “His first run was good and he’s improved so we will stick to 1200m at Sha Tin for now.”
The Hong Kong season continues on Thursday, 18 October with an eight-race card at Happy Valley.
Paul O’Sullivan records his first win of the season with Willie Way (in green/orange) in Race 2, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club