Young apprentice Dylan Mo brought up a significant milestone in his developing career with a double at Wednesday night’s Happy Valley meeting, signalling the end of the rider’s 10-pound allowance and taking him to a new phase as a seven-pound claimer.
Back-to-back wins on Dennis Yip-trained My Blessing (107lb) in the first section of the Class 4 D’Aguilar Handicap (1650m) and Tony Millard’s Master Viking (122lb) in the second section of the Class 4 Lyndhurst Handicap (1200m) took Mo to 20 wins for the season, the point at which his claim reduces from 10 pounds to seven.
Millard in particular has been a supporter of Mo, with the South African trainer providing the 23-year-old rider with his first Happy Valley winner in March and now his 20th winner. The handler was not on course on Wednesday night, but Mo was grateful for his continuing support.
“Thank you to Mr Millard, he’s really given me a chance to ride for him on some good horses like Master Viking tonight,” Mo said. “Other trainers have given me a chance too, including Mr Yip. I have been very lucky to get some good support, particularly recently.”
Mo took time to find his feet upon his return to Hong Kong in September, going winless in 54 rides in 2016. However, the start of 2017 brought more luck as the jockey broke his maiden on New Year’s Day, and he has continued to improve since.
At the last six meetings at which Mo has ridden, dating back to 21 May, he has had 38 rides for eight wins, two seconds and six thirds. The young gun believes that his rate of improvement is down to former top rider Felix Coetzee, who has been serving as Chief Riding Instructor for the HKJC’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School.
“I have been doing a lot of work, a lot of exercises with our riding master Felix Coetzee,” Mo said. “I have been listening to him a lot and that has helped me to do my job to the best of my ability. I’m feeling good, confident, and hopefully I can ride more winners.
“Tonight, I was lucky with how the races were run. My Blessing got a good run, I didn’t want to go with Joao when he took off, and he fought back so well with the light weight. Master Viking kicked so strongly too, he’s a tough horse.”
Mo’s claim will reduce to seven pounds from Sunday’s (18 June) Sha Tin meeting, with the next significant step being a further reduction to five pounds when he makes it to 45 winners.
It was a night of milestones all around for Hong Kong’s apprentices – in fact, for homegrown riders all around – with the newest addition to the ranks Matthew Poon riding his inaugural Happy Valley winner at his first meeting at the city track.
Poon brought Gracious Ryder (113lb), trained by the claimer’s master David Hall, to the centre of the track upon straightening and the Tickets gelding responded willingly to take the first section of the Class 4 Lyndhurst Handicap (1200m) by a nose.
“A first-time rider, the first time the horse has ever seen the lights of Happy Valley and it looked like they had both been around here 100 times,” Hall said. “Happy Valley is a tricky circuit. For Matthew, he’d had a couple of sets of trials but there is nothing like coming here in front of the crowd against (Joao) Moreira and company, it is very tough.
“He does have his head on his shoulders, he’s taking it all in his stride and it was great to see him get a winner tonight. And it was good to see Dylan ride a couple of winners earlier, it puts a bit of competition amongst the boys for the end of the season heading into next term.”
Comeback jockey Eddy Lai rode his first winner since October 2015 when scoring a shock 29/1 victory on Chris So-trained Racing Mate (114lb) in the Class 3 On Lan Handicap (1000m). The 43-year-old had spent much of the last two seasons on the sidelines with a knee injury, but he returned to the riding roster in April.
“It was great to give him a winner,” So said. “The horse was outpaced early, I didn’t think he’d get there but they went so fast that he was just able to win.”
It was another local rider to the fore in the night’s sole Class 2 with Alvin Ng scoring just his third winner of the season in the Wyndham Handicap (1800m) on Tony Cruz’s Time Warp (109lb).
Time Warp led through brisk sectionals but with only 109 pounds on his back, he was able to scoot clear to win by two and a half lengths in a course record time of 1m 47.61s. The new record is 0.44s quicker than the previous high mark set by Marvel Hero earlier in the term.
“He’s taken time to come right, but maybe now he’s switched on,” Cruz said. “We are still figuring him out, but he’s a nice horse for next season.”
It was a night of fast times overall, coming after 275 millimetres of rain fell at Happy Valley in the 48 hours before the first race.
The opener, the second section of the Class 4 D’Aguilar Handicap (1650m), was won by Caspar Fownes-trained Clever Spirit (116lb) in 1m 39.05s, the fastest Happy Valley 1650m race of the season to date; however, that time was bettered by Jade Fortune (123lb) in the Sports Club Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup Handicap. Manfred Man’s galloper showed a deft turn of foot along the rail to break his Hong Kong maiden under Zac Purton, stopping the clock at 1m 38.92s.
Man made it a “Jade” double in the closer after Jade Theatre (120lb) took the Class 3 Staunton Handicap (1200m) with Umberto Rispoli in the saddle.
Racing returns to Sha Tin on Sunday, with the first race on the 10-event card scheduled to jump at 1pm.