Triumphant Jewel provides Sanna the spark
Italian jockey on Cloud Nine after landing first win in penultimate meeting of Hong Kong season
Jockey Alberto Sanna went out for the fifth race at Happy Valley on Wednesday night concerned that his late-season call-up would ultimately undersell his abilities.
But those fears were banished when 14-1 shot TRIUMPHANT JEWEL provided the Italian with a maiden Hong Kong score at the city track's final fixture this term.
"Before the race, I had a thought that I would leave Hong Kong without showing my best side, without having a chance to show my skills, so I was a little bit sad. But then this happens - it's great," said Sanna, after unwrapping himself from compatriot and colleague Umberto Rispoli's celebratory embrace.
Sanna, who has been based in Qatar and Bahrain in recent years, was brought in for the season's final three meetings to stave off a potential jockey shortage.
After five blanks at his Sha Tin debut on Sunday, Italy's former champion apprentice trailed home 10th and 12th aboard his first two Happy Valley mounts. But then came the Class 3 Let Me Fight Handicap (1,000m) and Triumphant Jewel's knock-out run.
"He jumped very well and he travelled very strongly, so I sat midfield in a good position on the rail," recalled Sanna.
"I followed Neil Callan and Joao (Moreira), so I was following two of the best jockeys and they took me home. The horse gave a really strong finish in the straight."
Triumphant Jewel landed his sixth Hong Kong win with a determined stretch run that saw him overhaul the front-running Money Boy in the final 200m.
The six-year-old stopped the clock at 57.08sec, scoring by a length and a quarter.
"Second meeting, first winner - that feels better!" said Sanna.
With this Sunday's Sha Tin fixture being the 2016/17 "Season Finale", Wednesday's last Happy Valley meeting of the campaign was billed as the "Season Fiesta".
SURGE OF NOISE
And there was a surge of noise from the buoyant crowd of 24,794 when Chad Schofield drove FLYING QUEST to nick the sixth, the Class 3 King's Falcon Handicap (1,200m), in a blanket finish.
"I could tell he was really surging underneath me and I could tell he was going to hit the line strongly," said Schofield.
"But it was then a question of whether he could get there in time."
He did - at odds of 101/1.
Trainer David Hall's four-year-old New Zealand import pipped Green Card by a short head, with the same margin to Dollar Reward.
Hall enjoyed a race-to-race double in the next as Zac Purton sealed a riding treble on the enigmatic DR LISTENING, the 4.2 favourite.
The four-year-old was having his third start for Hall after a stable transfer from champion trainer John Size.
That win took Purton's haul for the term to 106, having landed a brace earlier on the card.
The former champion jockey on IMPERIAL SEAL for Caspar Fownes in Race 3 then scored atop the Dennis Yip-trained STARLIGHT in the next race.
"It's always good to finish the season on a high," said Purton.
"Things have been going well and I can go away on holiday feeling pretty good about it all."
Purton sits second in the premiership, adrift of runaway champion Moreira, who leads with 169 winners.
Behind the pair of centurions was Callan, who increased his advantage over the rest as he all but secured third spot.
The Irishman partnered the Peter Ho-trained EASTERN PROWESS in Race 2 to take his winning tally to 46.
The Hong Kong season will take a break after this Sunday's Sha Tin meeting and racing will resume on Sept 3. - HKJC