Preparing to reunite with champion galloper Golden Sixty at Sha Tin on Sunday (November 20), Vincent Ho has almost certainly secured a coveted berth in the International Jockeys' Championship (IJC) next month with a double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (November 16).
With three places still to be assigned in the star-studded 12-rider roster for the December 7 IJC – including one for Hong Kong's leading home-grown jockey – Ho (18 wins) holds a commanding six-win lead over his closest fellow Hong Kong rider Matthew Chadwick (12) with only two meetings left before the final selection is made.
Ho's brace on Happily Friends and Jazz Steed also consolidated his hold on second place in the Hong Kong jockeys' championship behind runaway leader Zac Purton (40), who missed Wednesday night's fixture with COVID, leaving Silvestre de Sousa (16), Chadwick (12), Alexis Badel (11), Lyle Hewitson (10) and Luke Ferraris (10) in contention for the two IJC remaining spots.
Purton will next month attempt to defend his IJC crown against a glittering line-up of internationally acclaimed jockeys including Ryan Moore, Hollie Doyle, Jamie Kah, James McDonald, Yuga Kawada, Mickael Barzalona, Jye McNeil and Tom Marquand.
Ho, winner of three Tony Cruz Awards as Hong Kong's top home-grown jockey, is excited at the prospect of joining the IJC series.
“I'm happy to have the chance to be involved,” Ho said. “It's a privilege to ride against all the top jockeys in the world and I'm excited to have a chance to be in it.”
Chadwick, who also had a double with Excellent Peers and Gold Marquis, is well placed to join his compatriot in the series after moving into fourth place in the Hong Kong championship with 12 wins as Tony Cruz, Frankie Lor and Caspar Fownes shared Happy Valley training honours with doubles.
Chadwick emulated Ho's quickfire double aboard Gold Marquis in the Class 3 Japan Racing Association Trophy Handicap (1200m) for Fownes before driving Excellent Peers to victory in the Class 3 Kyoto Handicap (1200m) for Lor.
Peter Ho combined with Matthew Poon to clinch the Class 2 Tokyo Handicap (1650m) with Packing Award, who posted his sixth victory in 14 starts with a head margin over Mr Ascendency. Savaquin was a neck away in third.
“My main target is the January Cup. He's a very honest horse and it's very hard to find a horse like this. He's more relaxed now and always tries his best,” Ho said.
Cruz and Luke Ferraris closed the meeting in style with the triumph of Winning Dragon, a dual Group 1 winner in Chile, in the Class 3 Hanshin Handicap (1650m). Runner-up Pegasus General was also a Group 1 victor in his native Brazil.
Vincent Ho started the meeting in a blaze with a race-to-race double, initially delivering Happily Friends (133lb), a Hong Kong International Sale graduate, with perfect timing to snare the first section of the Class 5 Fukushima Handicap (1200m) for Chris So.
Ho's strength was pivotal in the second section of the Class 5 Fukushima Handicap (1200m) when Jazz Steed (135lb) downed Universal Crown for Fownes before Derek Leung joined the fray with victory on Ricky Yiu-trained Leslie (131lb) in the first section of the Class 4 Nakayama Handicap (1200m).
Angus Chung posted his first Happy Valley winner when the 10-pound claiming apprentice piloted Circuit Elite to an all-the-way success in the Class 4 Chukyo Handicap (1800m) for Cruz. Chung, 26, has ridden eight winners at Sha Tin this season since returning from his stint in Australia.
Reigning Hong Kong Champion Trainer Lor extended his excellent start to the season when Savvy Chic swept to victory in the second section of the Class 4 Nakayama Handicap (1200m) for Silvestre de Sousa. Lor has 17 wins for the campaign so far.
“I told the jockey to follow other horses if he needed to, but this horse (Savvy Chic) has a lot of speed and he was able to lead,” Lor said. “His next start will depend on how many he points he gets in the handicap. If he stays in Class 4, I will look for another 1200m race at Happy Valley.”
Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (November 20) with the running of the Group 2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m), Group 2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m) and Group 2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m).