Via David Morgan, Hong Kong Jockey Club
Ben So earned his first win of the term with a stalk and swoop ride on the Jimmy Ting-trained Baby in the Class 3 Hebe Hill Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley tonight, Wednesday, 30 October.
The former champion apprentice has had to fight for scraps in recent seasons – he ended last term with six wins – but has continued to prove his value in the tough Hong Kong crucible despite finding winning opportunities hard to come by.
And his popularity among colleagues and rivals was evident from the flurry of backslaps and handshakes as he made his way along the corridor from the weigh scale to the jockeys’ room.
“It’s a relief,” he admitted. “During the last two months I’ve been riding horses that did not have very good chances but I’ve still been trying my best and today I got the winner so I’m really happy.”
Before tonight’s success, the 32 year-old had scraped three placings from 71 rides.
So tracked the pace-setting Shining Ace (122lb) through a rail run atop bottom-weight Baby (112lb) and when the Umberto Rispoli-ridden leader extended off the home turn, he kept a calm head, pulled out and pursued with confidence.
“I thought he’d come back – he went pretty fast,” So said. “My horse jumped really well, I tried to get a forward position and we got the box seat easily.
“At that position he pulled a bit through the early stage and then from the 150 (metres) he calmed down and I just followed the leader easy. When we got in the straight and I asked him, he gave me a really strong run.”
Schofield flashes late
Chad Schofield continued his solid start to the campaign, tallying a seventh win aboard Flash Famous (124lb) in section two of the Class 4 Tsim Mei Fung Handicap (1650m).
The Frankie Lor-trained five-year-old backed up a last start win under the rider with a dramatic late lunge to edge out Tangmere (133lb) and Electric Lightning (122lb) in a three-way tussle to the wire.
“He had the run of the race but he worried me around the turn because he dropped the bridle and he wasn’t going anywhere,” Schofield said.
“He didn’t corner all that well and Tangmere was able to slip through – I kept him balanced and was hoping, waiting for him to swap onto his correct leg and he didn’t but he came back late and got the win.”
Aurora Pegasus succeeded on the back-up too. The Caspar Fownes-trained galloper clearly learned a fair bit from his last start win and put that into play with an accomplished stretch run that carried him to a cosy length and a quarter score in the Class 4 Tiu Yue Yung Handicap (1200m).
That sealed a double for Zac Purton, on the mark earlier when Amazing Luck (133lb) came out best in a ding-dong battle with Flame Lily (125lb) and Casa De Forca (130lb) for section one of the Class 4 Tsim Mei Fung Handicap (1650m). The champion jockey dished out a power-packed drive to ensure the five-year-old earned a breakthrough win at his 10th Hong Kong start.
The victory took Purton’s record this season for trainer Paul O’Sullivan to four wins from 11 starts, an impressive 36 percent strike rate.
The Joao Moreira and John Size double act struck again when Hong Kong Win led from start to finish in the 1000m dash for the Class 4 Tin Ha Shan Handicap. The Mossman four-year-old, the 5.2 joint-favourite, claimed the spoils for the first time at his fifth outing.
On an evening of close finishes, Flying Quest (121lb) charged determinedly to snare the Class 3 Pyramid Hill Handicap (1650m) in a four-way finish. Matthew Poon urged the David Hall-trained galloper to a short-head verdict over race favourite Universal Go Go (119lb).
It was almost a year between drinks but Grant van Niekerk steered home his second winner for trainer David Ferraris, the HKJC Racing Club-owned Young Glory in the the Class 5 Wa Mei Shan Handicap (2200m). The South African pair had teamed up only once this term prior to tonight.
Ferraris bagged a double for the first time since 10 June, 2018 when Rispoli succeeded in getting Xiang Bai Qi’s (119lb) head in front for the first time in 20 Hong Kong starts. The five-year-old burst through a gap deep in the home run and held the Purton-ridden 2.1 favourite Chefano (130lb) by half a length in the Class 3 Shek Uk Shan Handicap (1800m).
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday, 3 November when the feature race will be the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap.