'Ho'-megrown Success In the Longines IJC

Vincent Ho hoists the Longines IJC trophy for the first time | HKJC photo

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Jockey Vincent Ho made history Wednesday night at iconic Happy Valley Racecourse on Hong Kong Island, becoming the first 'homegrown' rider to take out the prestigious Longines International Jockeys' Championship.

With a narrow victory over Zac Purton in the fourth and final leg of the series, Ho amassed a total of 20 points to Purton's 18, with Australia's Rachel King and the locally based South African Lyle Hewitson on 16 points. King was declared outright third, with her victory in the first leg of the competition and an additional third-place finish in the finale trumping Hewitson's three minor placings.

To say it has been an eventful last four months in the life of Vincent Ho would be an understatement of monumental proportions. The 33-year-old graduate of the HKJC's Apprentice Jockeys' School, who is best known for his affiliation with three-time Horse of the Year Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro), announced his intentions to participate in the Shergar Cup at Ascot in August and was planning on riding at Goodwood as a warm-up as well. But he was seriously injured in a spill in late July when riding on a short-term stint at Niigata in Japan, resulting in a fractured vertebra, whiplash and a pneumothorax on his lung, Asian Racing Report wrote in August.

Despite the severity of the injuries, Ho was back in time for the third meeting of the new season in Hong Kong, only to be suspended in early October for 10 meetings for failing to sufficiently ride out his mount in a dead-heat victory, a penalty later cut to eight while being forced to pay a fine of HK$120,000 in lieu of the two extra dates. He returned to the saddle on Nov. 12 and still managed to book his spot in the IJC, in which he had finished alone in third in 2019 and a joint-third with fellow local rider Derek Leung last year.

But it was King, making her IJC debut, who struck first for Melbourne Cup-winning conditioner David Hall aboard 9-1 outsider Oversubscribed (Aus) (Reward For Effort {Aus}) (video), who–as reported by HKJC commentator Tom Wood–was making his fourth straight appearance in the Class 4 over the 1000 metres.

“He was probably the perfect start to riding here at Happy Valley,” said King, who narrowly missed winning this year's World Series Jockeys at Sapporo. “He's looked after me and did everything for me.”

Speaking after her third placing was confirmed, King added: “I think it was a good first effort. The atmosphere at Happy Valley is unbelievable and I really enjoyed it.”

Ryan Moore, a two-time IJC winner and three times its runner-up, had his best scoring chance in the second leg of the IJC and duly obliged aboard 8-5 favourite M Unicorn (NZ) (Savabeel {Aus}) for the training King of Happy Valley Caspar Fownes, spearing through from between rivals before proving a slashing winner (video). Moore was himself injured in a fall at Kyoto Nov. 19.

Leading Hong Kong jockey Zac Purton was downplaying his chances for a third IJC in the last four years prior to the event, but put himself into the reckoning with an inspired stalk-and-pounce ride aboard Silver Sonic (Aus) (Exosphere {Aus}) for Golden Sixty's trainer Francis Lui at odds just north of 8-1 (video).

Half of the 12 riders remained in with chances to varying degrees entering the IJC finale over 1200 metres. From an outside alley, Ho kicked the in-form David Hayes-trained Tomodachi Kokoroe (Aus) (Written Tycoon {Aus}) straight into the lead, set a steady pace and just held off Purton's mount Kaholo Angel (GB) (Havana Grey {GB}) to secure the victory (video).

The always humble Ho learned he'd won only during the post-race debrief with the HKJC's Nick Child.

“I was not aware [I had won] and I didn't even know about the points, I just kept riding every race to have a winning chance,” said Ho. “I felt the track today favoured the front-runners a little bit so that definitely helped and of course Mr Hayes' team did a great job and helped me win this.

“As the first homegrown of course I received plenty of support here and hopefully it will inspire more kids.”

Ho, whose two HKIR successes came aboard Golden Sixty in the Hong Kong Mile in 2020 and 2021, also rides Senor Toba (Aus) (Toronado {Ire}) in the Hong Kong Vase and the progressive Straight Arron (Aus) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) in the Hong Kong Cup, both for former boss Fownes.

Moore's 12 points was good for fifth place, Tom Marquand's best finish was a fourth in leg three and Hollie Doyle posted a pair of fifth-place finishes. Yuga Kawada, James McDonald, Bauyrzhan Murzabayev and Karis Teetan also failed to point.

 

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