Vincent Ho receives the Tony Cruz Award.
Hong Kong Jockey Club
By Leo Schlink
Vincent Ho has crowned a glorious season by claiming his third consecutive Tony Cruz Award as Hong Kong’s leading local jockey, clinching overall honours with a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (14 July).
Already the jurisdiction’s leading Group 1 rider in 2020/21 with five successes at elite level – four on Golden Sixty and another on Loves Only You – Ho finished the term with 61 wins to deny apprentice Jerry Chau, who completed a phenomenal first full season with 58 victories.
Ho finished fourth on the jockeys’ championship behind Joao Moreira (157), Zac Purton (125) and Karis Teetan (79) before paying rich tribute to the Club and Chau.
“It’s been an incredible season for me. I just want to thank the Jockey Club, the Racing Development Board for the way they support local jockeys even after we graduate with financial support for us to go overseas every summer,” Ho said.
“That has made me a better horseman for sure. I want to thank all the owners and trainers who support me.
“I congratulate Jerry. He did an amazing job as an apprentice – just incredible. I’m already looking forward to watching him ride next season. It is an incredibly competitive environment and that’s how we all improve.
“Now it’s time to relax a bit. I feel relieved and it’s time to refresh the mind and go for it again next season.”
Caspar Fownes ended the season with 79 victories, six ahead of John Size (73) and Frankie Lor (65).
With both Moreira and Fownes assured of a fourth championship, respectively, the Tony Cruz Award was the sole interest in terms of undecided titles.
Ho took the early initiative with victory on Jimmy Ting’s Happily Friends in the second section of the Class 4 Sung Tak Handicap (1200m), stretching his lead over Chau to three wins with only six races left in the season.
Contesting his 19th race on Hong Kong soil, the Requinto gelding clocked a class record 1m 08.60s.
But Chau fired back immediately when Douglas Whyte’s Xponential clinched the first section of the Class 4 Sung Tak Handicap (1200m). The race was marred by a fall involving Island Shine and Karis Teetan. Both horse and rider were uninjured.
Ho then had to endure an anxious wait before correct weight was posted after his ride on David Hayes-trained Red Impact in the Class 4 Hau Tak Handicap (1650m) as stewards held an inquiry into the closing stages of the race.
Triumphant by only a nose, Ho and Red Impact appeared to bump Land Power inside the last 100m, when Land Power jockey Alfred Chan dropped his whip.
Neil Callan bowed out of Hong Kong racing in triumph, surviving a protest aboard Tony Cruz’s Helene Wisdom Star to clinch the Class 2 Wong Nai Chung Handicap (1650m).
The Irishman departs Hong Kong with 283 wins in the jurisdiction.
Victor Wong scored an uplifting victory on Shanghai Power in the Class 5 Link Handicap (1000m), posting his first win of the season at his 231st ride – a year after his last success.
Badly injured in a track fall in May, 2019, when he suffered back and chest fractures, Wong had registered 12 minor placings until Wednesday night’s drought-breaker.
“I had waited for a long time but the last day, I just relaxed and I tried to do my best to see if I could get it (the win),” the 27-year-old said, before crediting trainer Me Tsui for his patient counsel.
“On the horse and even off the horse, he (Tsui) has given me some suggestions for training like sprinting – do some 10-second sprints but do a few sets to make the last 100m (in a horse race) stronger.
“The trainer told me to go to the trainers’ stand more and try and sell myself to other trainers and get more rides because I’m not really good at selling myself.”
Typically, self-effacing Tsui refused to take any credit for Wong’s achievement.
“If Joao (Moreira) had ridden this horse, they would have said Joao rode a winner for me. But if Victor Wong rides? They say I gave the winner to Victor Wong. It’s upside down.
“For this race, I think Victor Wong helped me more than I helped him.”
John Size’s Leap Of Faith overcame a wide gate – barrier 10 – in slashing fashion by threatening Time Warp’s 1800m course record (1m 47.61s) by scorching to victory in the Class 3 Oi Kwan Handicap in 1m 47.91s to smash the class record of 1m 48.30s set by Emperor Claudius in 2013.
Success Allstars claimed his second win in three starts for David Ferraris in record-breaking fashion in the program-opener by snaring the Class 5 Ventris Handicap (1800m) under Karis Teetan, setting a new class record of 1m 48.33s.
It was Ferraris’ 17th win of the term and Teetan’s 79th.
Harry Bentley posted his fifth victory of the season when Tony Millard’s Resolute lived up to his name with a gritty win in the Class 3 Broadwood Handicap (1000m).
Millard snared training honours on the card when Derek Leung drove Sparkling Dragon to victory in the Class 2 Sports Road Handicap (1200m) to close the season with a second successive victory.