James Winks was swept to cloud nine on the broad back of 50-1 chance Dim Sum in the group I Chairman’s Sprint Prize Feb. 21 and as darkness fell on Sha Tin, there was no sign of his coming down any time soon.
Winks, 25, declared he had just achieved “every jockey’s dream” of landing a group one race in Hong Kong and the Melburnian’s reaction was euphoric as he lived out that dream alongside champion trainer John Moore during the presentation ceremony for the HK$4.5 million feature.
Winks, who had won two group ones in Australia, emerged triumphant in a battle of tactics where his major rivals Enthused (Douglas Whyte), Sacred Kingdom (Olivier Doleuze), and Green Birdie (Christophe Soumillon) all had legitimate excuses.
“This is just amazing,” said a stunned Winks after posing for photos with Moore and the Sprint Prize Silverware. “Just being here is a great experience but to win a race like this, so soon, is way beyond anything I had expected.
“I got those two early winners here but then the last few weeks have been a struggle. But they tell me that happens to everyone when they get to Hong Kong and to just keep going and something will happen. Well today something incredible happened and I can’t thank John and the owners, the Pong family, enough for giving me this opportunity.”
Moore, who completed the group I double with Dim Sum some 35 minutes after Viva Pataca had won his second Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, also expressed heartfelt thanks to owner David Pong Chun-yee and his grandmother, the devout racing fan Cynthia Pong Hong Chu-siu.
“When my father first came to train here in the early 1970s, Mrs Pong was one of our first clients and she has been a staunch supporter ever since,” Moore explained.
“She's an icon in racing and there will never be another like Mrs Pong; congratulations to her, she puts so much in and deserves everything she gets. I hope winning another group one for her today has topped it all off and repaid her, in part, for all support she has given the Moore family over four decades.”
Ironically, David Pong also won the Chairman’s Sprint Prize three years ago in eerily similar circumstances. Billet Express, a consistent performer for the Moore yard in handicap races, lifted the 2006 edition of this weight-for-age sprint at odds of 24-1 at the expense of a proven performer in Scintillation and a virus-debilitated Silent Witness.
After the races, Winks fielded congratulations from a number of jockeys but the one with the best parallel story was Brett Prebble.
“This will be the turning point for you,” Prebble told him. “In my first season, I fluked picking up the ride on Precision and we won the Group One Champions & Chater Cup, but that one win was the difference between me staying here and going home.”
Olivier Doleuze claimed barrier one and at least two bouts of interference stood between victory and defeat for comeback sprinter Sacred Kingdom, who was beaten two heads into third place.
Stewards looked at early interference to the world champion sprinter from River Jordan (Darren Beadman) and severely reprimanded Beadman, warning him that “while the stewards accept competitive riding, he must exercise care to ensure his riding does not place him in breach of a significant Rule of Racing.”
Sacred Kingdom’s next start is expected to be a return bout against Good Ba Ba in the group I Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup over 1,400 meters at Sha Tin on March 15.