Life is moving forward for Alfred Chan Ka-hei on and off the track with the 27-year-old securing his first two winners as a freelance jockey while in the process of planning a wedding with partner Zenna.
Chan officially finished his apprenticeship at the end of last season, an up-and-down journey which harvested just 38 winners, declining the opportunity to extend it after finding some success when switching from Frankie Lor Fu-chuen to Caspar Fownes last year.
It was a move both he and Fownes thought needed to happen and it paid dividends at Sha Tin on Sunday with Chan lifting the Dennis Yip Chor-hong-trained Flying Bonus home at $39 before landing a plunge with Land Power ($9.75) for his former mentor the following race.
“I discussed it with Caspar and he said ‘it’s up to you, do whatever you want to do’. If you want to be a freelancer riding outside work you can probably get more support and the main thing is I don’t need to share a percentage with him, I just earn all the money myself,” Chan said. “He has kept his promise that he will keep supporting me, which I am so grateful for.
“To be honest I’m 27 now and there’s no point staying in the apprentice school because I have my own life and I want to be with my own family as well. I’m happy that I’m living by myself, my girlfriend is here and we’re organising probably getting married maybe at the end of this year or early next year.”
Fownes is happy with the new arrangement and was delighted to see Chan have some success early in the season.
“It’s nice to see Alfie ride a double,” Fownes said. “He comes and rides work for us every morning. He’s there from 4.30am to 6.30am, six days a week. Then he goes and rides for Dennis and a couple of other lads.
“He’s finding his own feet and hopefully people will give him some opportunities and he can ride some winners this season.
“He’s a young man now, he’s got a girlfriend, he’s not far off getting married. Time for him to man up a little bit.”
Flying Bonus’ win completed a double for Yip, who also took out the opening race of the day with Light My Day (Blake Shinn).
Sweet success for Ting’s racy types
Jimmy Ting Koon-ho kicked off his season with a couple of handy horses in Gluck Racer and My Sugar showing their wares at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Gluck Racer proved far too strong in the Class Three Diamond Hill Handicap (1,200m), taking his record to three wins from six starts, while My Sugar improved to three wins from seven starts after making a successful return from surgery on his left front fetlock in the Class Three Kwun Tong Handicap (1,400m).
“They are two nice horses in my stable and if they stay healthy I think there are still one or two more wins in them,” Ting said.
“I think Gluck Racer is a nice horse. He’s improving and I think he’ll still have a chance even in the bottom of Class Two.
“My Sugar ran well but I am surprised he won. I thought it would be a bit difficult and the horse will improve.”
Gluck Racer also provided Chad Schofield with his first victory of the season but it wasn’t all positive news for the 27-year-old, who was hit with a two-meeting suspension for careless riding when finishing second aboard the Ting-trained Easy Fortune in the third race.
Chang hails change in luck
Michael Chang Chun-wai burst out of the blocks to snare his first double since January last year, with Steel Win and Golden Four getting the chocolates in the first half of the card.
It was a welcome return for Chang, who could only manage nine victories last season on his way to his receiving his first strike – the punishment meted out by the Jockey Club if a single-site trainer doesn’t reach 16 winners or those that also have a Conghua base can’t hit 18 in a system where it is three strikes and you’re out.
“It’s a nice double, it’s been nearly two years. My luck has changed – luck is on my side today,” said Chang.
Steel Win got the perfect run under Joao Moreira in the second section of the Class Four Lam Tin Handicap (1,200m) on the all-weather track, travelling box seat before wearing down leader Blotting Paper in the straight and holding off the Peter Ho Leung-trained The Best Hero in a thrilling run to the line.
“It was very close but my horse took the box seat and saved some ground and saved some energy, [The Best Hero] got an outside gate and that was the difference,” Chang said.
Steel Win has now won two on the trot after his rating dropped from 52 to 43 across six fruitless starts to begin his career.
“I think, honestly, it was a weaker field on the all-weather and from three turning four he has improved a little bit. If he pulls up OK I will just keep running him on the dirt – he loves the dirt,” Chang said.
Taken back from gate 12 by Shinn, Golden Four cornered for home on the rail and found himself facing a wall of horses 300m out.
The gap eventually presented for Shinn and Golden Four sliced through to storm over the top of his rivals in the Class Five San Po Kong Handicap (1,400m).
“He didn’t get a clear run until the last 100m but it was a good ride. They went pretty fast and in Class Five they stop in the straight, then my horse got the lucky run in the last 150m,” Chang said. “His handicap dropped down a lot, that also helped him.”
Poon Train derailed again
Matthew Poon Ming-fai’s wretched run with injury has continued, with the 27-year-old forced to forego his final two rides after aggravating an old foot injury when he came off Lotus Favorites soon after entering the track for the second section of the Class Four Ngau Tau Kok Handicap (1,400m).
After breaking his ribs as a result of a fall from The Elites at Happy Valley in November last year, Poon damaged ligaments in his foot after coming off Plikclone at the final Sha Tin meeting of last season in July – the injury that flared up on Sunday.
After partnering the David Hall-trained Lotus Favorites to ninth, Poon was stood down from rides on Cheerful Days, which finished eighth under Harry Bentley, and Golfman Star, who Derek Leung Ka-chun piloted to 11th.
Poon remains confident he will be fit to fulfil his commitments at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.