Vincent Ho celebrates his first LONGINES IJC victory. Photo by HKJC.

Vincent Ho creates history with epic LONGINES IJC triumph

HJKC Staff

HKJC Staff Member

07/12/2023

By Scott Burton, for the HKJC.

 

Vincent Ho claimed a hugely popular first victory in the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship thanks to a beautifully judged front-running success on Tomodachi Kokoroe in the fourth and final leg at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (6 December).

Rachel King, Ryan Moore and Zac Purton had each claimed a maximum 12 points with wins in the opening three races of the challenge, though it was the ultra-consistent Lyle Hewitson who led going into the decider thanks to two seconds and a third.

Ho had earlier kept himself in the hunt for the HK$600,000 first prize when finishing third in each of the first two legs, though the reality that he had become Hong Kong’s first home-grown jockey to win the IJC had yet to dawn after he dictated matters from the front on the David Hayes-trained Tomodachi Kokoroe, saving enough to repel the late charge of Purton on Kaholo Angel.

Ho claimed the title with 20 points – 12 for a win, six for second and four for third – from Purton (18) and King (16).

 

Tomodachi Kokoroe clinches the LONGINES IJC for Ho.
Tomodachi Kokoroe clinches the LONGINES IJC for Ho.

 

A four-time winner of the Tony Cruz Award as the leading homegrown jockey in Hong Kong, Ho missed the start of the season when suffering back and rib injuries after a fall in Japan at the end of July.

But he has made up for lost time, quickly rising to fifth in the table, and has a huge LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on Sunday (10 December) ahead, with Hong Kong Mile hat-trick seeker Golden Sixty, as well as Senor Toba in the Vase and Straight Arron in the Cup.

“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.”

Ho is now firmly established among the world’s elite. But, when reminded of his time serving as an attendant to the riders on IJC night when still an apprentice, the 33-year-old revealed the humble side to his nature that has endeared him to racing fans just as much as his excellence in the saddle.

Ho said: “Christophe (Soumillon), Frankie (Dettori) and Ryan (Moore) were always my idols, right up until today, and I keep learning from those good jockeys, those good horsemen. There’s still plenty to improve to (get to) their levels.”

Reflecting on his historic achievement, Ho said: “Especially after a tough injury, coming back to win this, I’m really grateful for. Hopefully this will inspire more generations to come and the Hong Kong people especially.

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

Ho can now look forward to getting back aboard his “best friend” in Golden Sixty, while King will return to Australia well satisfied with her IJC debut.

 

Rachel King wins at her first Happy Valley ride.
Rachel King wins at her first Happy Valley ride.

 

She threw down the first marker of the evening, steering the David Hall-trained Oversubscribed to success on her very first ride in Hong Kong.

“He was probably the perfect start to riding here at Happy Valley,” said King, whose third-place effort in the fourth leg secured the runner-up spot in the IJC.

“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.”

Twice a winner of the IJC, Moore added to his tremendous record at the Valley when showing no ill-effects from his own recent spill to drive home M Unicorn for Caspar Fownes in leg two.

And the plot thickened once more when Purton scored aboard Silver Sonic for Francis Lui in leg three.

But it is Vincent Ho who heads into the biggest meeting of the year with the first significant prize of the week in safe-keeping for the next 12 months.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Sunday (10 December) with the HK$118 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) with the running of the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).

8. Jockey Dynamics with Atzeni and De Melo

The arrival of Andrea Atzeni, who’s left a mark riding across Europe, and South Africa’s own Keagan De Melo presents an interesting subplot. Their foray promises to shuffle the deck of jockey ranks this season.

7. Size Always Matters

John Size is akin to an old wine – the man just gets better. Bagging his 12th title last season, everyone’s wondering just how slowly will he kick-off and where he’ll land by season’s end?

6. The Path Ahead for Vincent Ho

A fractured T5 vertebra isn’t easy to bounce back from, yet Vincent Ho’s potential return on day one of the season has everyone on tenterhooks. Can he recover, regain his momentum and ruffle Purton’s feathers? In this mix, let’s not overlook the mercurial Hugh Bowman, who will fancy his chances of climbing higher in his first full-year stint in Hong Kong.

Return to HH tomorrow when I’ll deliver the 5 leading plotlines that will shape the next Hong Kong season.

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