By Hans Ebert
Visit: www.fasttrack.hk

As Keith Yeung walked towards Shatin racecourse on Sunday, possibly the best he could have been hoping for would have been running into a place on one or two of his rides. He hadn’t ridden a winner since April 5.

Having also gone winless on 107 rides before April, owners and trainers weren’t exactly breaking down his door offering him rides.

Though happy to see his former classmates at the apprentices school succeed- Derek Leung, and especially Vincent Ho, who’s well on his way to winning the coveted Tony Cruz Award for being the most successful local jockey- luck had somehow deserted Keith Yeung.

He’s always been a good rider. He was champion apprentice of the 2009/10 season. But even good riders need a morale boosting win to keep them motivated.

For Keith, he needed to show everyone that he still had the talent that made him one of the most successful apprentices along with Vincent Ho and Derek Leung.

In the highly competitive and superstitious arena that is Hong Kong racing, one is only as good as their last winner. For Keith Yeung that last winner seemed like an eternity ago.

On Sunday afternoon, he had secured eight rides. None of them were given a winning chance though he must have been happy to be riding for expatriate trainers Paul O’Sullivan, Caspar Fownes and John Moore.

Still, it couldn’t have helped to watch apprentice riders Jerry Chau Chun-lok- a new addition to the riding ranks- and Matthew Poon Ming-fai win the first and third races, respectively. Race three was the Group 3 Premier Cup whereas Chau completed a double with a winner in the fourth race.

A partial eclipse hovered over the track. One almost expected Bonnie Tyler to burst into song. Memories of long nights at Club BBoss singing karaoke with long legged dancers from Lithuania and Estonia flooded my mind.

As it came time for the eighth race, Keith shrugged off any negativity and walked into the paddock. Trainer Caspar Fownes had two runners in the eight horse field with Southern Legend being the stable elect.

The winner this season of the Group 1 Champions Mile, regular rider Vincent Ho was aboard. Keith’s ride in the race was a recent addition to the stable- Dances With Dragon, the galloper whose fourth placing in a race was to unfortunately short circuit the riding career in Hong Kong of his rider that day- Alberto Sanna.

The quite recent decision by the owners to move their galloper from the stable of Peter Ho to the Fownes yard had seen an immediate reversal of fortunes for the winless galloper.

He won his first start for Caspar Fownes as the race favourite with Zac Purton aboard and followed up with two more wins.

Those wins were at Happy Valley and Dances With Dragon was the forgotten horse in the 1800 metre Group 3 Premier Plate. At almost 18 to 1, the horse was considered by many to be a Happy Valley specialist and unproven at Shatin.

Keith Yeung had ridden the galloper at his last start over 1600 metres where he performed adequately enough.

With Fownes making a few gear adjustments and having Keith Yeung retain the ride, these eight horse fields almost always throw up a curveball. Keith Yeung was ready to catch it.

Every Speed Map went out the window when the horse many expected to lead was taken on and headed off.

While his more illustrious stablemate seemed to find the weight difference too big a mountain to climb, especially towards the end of a long season, the fit and lightly weighted Dances With Dragon tracked into the race and then pounced.

It wasn’t exactly Frankie Dettori on Stradivarius putting pay to his rivals at Royal Ascot, but, it’s always down to horses for courses, and Keith Yeung and Dances With Dragon were not going to be deprived victory.

There were over five lengths between the winner and the second horse, but one doubts Keith Yeung was counting.

In a couple of minutes, he had won his first Group race, and he had broken a long series of outs.

More importantly, and as he has taken pains to emphasise to the media and how his emotions bubbled over after the race, he was not going to hold back his appreciation and gratitude to the trainer and owners who had stuck by him.

Loyalty and trust in horse racing, especially in Hong Kong where horses change stables for winning and losing and if an owner or their lady friend doesn’t feel that the jockey has “a lucky face”, it’s always good when sanity prevails and Feel Good moments happen for all the right reasons.

And no. Bonnie Tyler didn’t sing about a total eclipse of the heart.

Sunday at Shatin was about happy endings. And that’s something for another day…

#KeithYeung #HKracing #CasparFownes #DancesWithDragon