Jockey Olivier Doleuze arrived at Happy Valley with only one ride at the rare Thursday night meeting, but he ensured a perfect strike rate on the card when he rode Jumbo Happiness to victory in the Class 3 Fortress Hill Handicap (1200m) – the Frenchman’s first win for the term.
Doleuze was the last Club Jockey to open his account for the season with his half-length triumph aboard the Caspar Fownes-trained Jumbo Happiness and he said it was only a late call-up which even saw him make the trek to Happy Valley on Thursday night.
“I didn’t originally have a ride, I was going to watch from home,” Doleuze said. “But Caspar gave me a chance to ride this horse, he told me he was going to give me a winner! I’m very happy.”
Olivier Doleuze gets Jumbo Happiness home to win the Class 3 Fortress Hill Handicap, his first win of the season, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
The 45-year-old has been a fixture of Hong Kong racing over the past 16 years, but he admits that the strength of the current jockey roster has made it more difficult to get rides.
“That’s life, I’m getting older, I still can ride but there is the new generation coming in behind,” he said. “And it’s not just the arrival of Joao Moreira, either, but plenty of light jockeys are now here and the locals are also riding so well too. We are already lucky in our profession that we can last as long as we do.
“I’m not a very light jockey, I only ride for a few stables – Michael (Chang) has always given me support, and obviously Caspar – but every stable seems to have their own jockey. There are only 14 horses per race maximum and there is a full roster, 21 or 22 at the moment, so the rides just aren’t there.”
Fownes said that he was proud to be able to give Doleuze a winner and hoped that it might lead to more chances for the pair to combine.
“Oli is a great guy, he’s a top rider but it’s like anything in Hong Kong – you just need a bit of luck and an opening,” he said. “Owners will always want to go with who is at the top, but that win will hopefully allow Oli some more rides for my stable.”
Jumbo Happiness, a graduate of the 2016 Hong Kong International Sale, has now won three races over the Happy Valley 1200m and Fownes believes the son of Fastnet Rock has scope to head higher.
“He’s been another good purchase from the sale,” he said. “He’s only a four-year-old and I think he’ll be better over further too, so I think there’s more to come from him.
“We’ll keep him to Happy Valley, though. Sha Tin should be a lovely track for him but he just loses the plot there, when we school him in the afternoons in the parade ring, he’s not a happy horse. While he’s comfortable here, we’ll stick to what is working.”
Earlier, Fownes took the Class 4 Sai Wan Ho Handicap (1800m) with Premium Champion, who prevailed under a well-timed Zac Purton ride.
“Last time, the mile was just a little too short but he was suited stepping up to 1800m now,” he said. “It was a patient ride from Zac, just beautiful to watch. Hopefully, the horse is back on track now.”