Star local jockey Vincent Ho’s 14th winner for the season, recorded on the Ricky Yiu-trained Gentle Breeze on Wednesday night at Happy Valley, might be worth more to the 28-year-old than just the usual winning rider’s percentage.
Ho drew level with fellow local rider Matthew Poon on that tally and that should guarantee him the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship spot allocated to the leading homegrown rider (a graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School).
That leading position is determined by standings after the Happy Valley race meeting on Wednesday 21 November but Poon cannot add to his tally before the cut-off as he is now suspended until 1 December. Ho’s greater number of second placings would secure the local place on countback, ahead of Poon, for the 5 December international challenge (provided, of course, his winning tally remains greater than any other eligible local rider, which looks almost certain).
As it stands, after tonight’s meeting, Ho would secure one of the two places allocated to all-comers in Hong Kong and Poon would therefore also win a place if Ho is still outright third in the premiership after the 21 November fixture and Poon is still the leading local.
“Of course I’d definitely like to get the chance to compete in the IJC but my focus is really just to keep riding my best and get the good results like this one. This horse (Gentle Breeze) is still a baby, still green and there’s plenty of improvement to come,” Ho said.
It would be Ho’s second IJC appearance, having finished fifth in 2014, and still something of a fairytale for the man who ‘carried the towels’ for the stars of the IJC show when he was still at apprentice’s school.
Vincent Ho lands his 14th winner of the season which should secure him and IJC spot, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Leung wastes no time in returning to winner’s list with welcome success for Chang
Jockey Derek Leung headed to Happy Valley, after a six-meeting ban, with the hope that a losing run of 48 rides would be soon put behind him and success came swiftly.
The dual winner of the Tony Cruz Award (presented to the season’s leading home-grown rider), produced a gem on the Michael Chang trained Dutch Windmill to win the opening race of the night - beating none other than current champion and premiership leader Zac Purton.
The two were side by side for much of the race with the perfect stalking trails behind the two leading horses. Purton’s mount Wonderful Tiger was tucked third on the fence with Leung on his outside in the coveted ‘one-one’. The rails run came for Purton but Leung peeled Dutch Windmill to the outside and under a vigorous ride, the gelding was able to notch his fourth win at the course and distance and provide Leung with his sixth for the season.
Trainer Chang, who’d trained just one previous winner this season, spoke for most when he described Leung as ‘a good lad and a very strong local jockey’ who deserved his opportunities while Leung simply said: “That’s what I wanted, very happy. Getting winners is the most important thing.”
“That was good. He’s a very honest horse with a good record at the course and distance and tonight he had a light weight, a good gate and a good jockey,” said Chang, who added that he was looking forward to the imminent addition of new horses from England and France.
“We will get some new blood in the stable which we need but at the moment it’s just a case of doing the best with what we have,” he said.
The second race went to another local trainer Manfred Man, with Umberto Rispoli piloting Peace On Earth to a strong-finishing victory while another local Chris So was left to lament being condemned to minor placings in the opening two races.
Derek Leung returned from suspension to break long run of outs, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club