It took 12 months, 88 meetings and 231 rides but jockey Victor Wong Chun is finally a winner again.
The 27-year-old avoided the ignominy of becoming the first rider since Alvin Ng Ka-chun in 2018-19 to complete a winless campaign after lifting the Me Tsui Yu-sak-trained Shanghai Power home at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Funnily enough, Wong’s previous victory came at the corresponding card – the final meeting of the season in 2020 – when Money Winner saluted, also for Tsui.
Coming into the night, his stats did not make for pleasant reading – five seconds and seven thirds from 229 mounts – but he’d also struggled for opportunities with just 12 of them starting at single-figure odds.
Shanghai Power made it 13 – he started favourite in the Class Five Link Handicap (1,000m) – and Wong made full use of barrier two, rolling straight to the front.
From there, the four-year-old was never headed, fighting off Chunghwa Jingshen late to give Wong some time in the spotlight.
“[I was] pretty calm [crossing the line],” he said. “I had waited for a long time but the last day, I just relaxed and I tried to do my best to see if I could get it.”
Wong’s career hasn’t been the same since a bad fall at trackwork on May 29, 2019 when he suffered “several contusions and fractures to his chest, back and head” and had to spend three weeks in hospital.
It took him a long time to recover physically, mentally and emotionally – he didn’t ride in a race for almost nine months – and there is a clear difference in his performance.
In the 13 months before the accident, Wong had won 51 races. In the past 17 months, he’s had just 10 victories. With another off-season to work out a plan of attack, the young jockey knows he needs to be more proactive.
“[Chris So Wai-yin just] told me to go to the trainers’ stand more and try and sell myself to other trainers and get more rides, because I’m not really good at selling myself,” Wong said. “It’s really hard to give owners and trainers confidence to give me a chance.
“I’ve recovered 99 per cent, just some bits of the skin are still itchy but the muscle and everything is all fine now.”
One man in Wong’s corner is Tsui, who has gone out of his way to provide plenty of support, but the humble trainer didn’t want any credit for Wong’s success.
“If Joao [Moreira] had ridden this horse, they would have said that Joao rode a winner for me. But if Victor Wong rides? They say I gave the winner to Victor Wong. It’s upside down,” Tsui said. “For this race, I think Victor Wong helped me more than I helped him.”
There was also a fairy tale finish for Neil Callan, who bowed out of Hong Kong racing a winner courtesy of Tony Cruz’s Helene Wisdom Star.
The Irishman, who will now return to Britain, lapped up the occasion, celebrating with the crowd and savouring the moment.
“It was brilliant to win,” Callan said. “I’ve proved tonight, on the last night, that I can hold my nerve and control the emotion and still ride at my best.
“Now I go home for my family – it’s all about my family.”
Vincent Ho put the last undecided title of the season to bed quickly, wins with Happily Friends and Red Impact ensuring he claimed the Tony Cruz Award as the leading local rider for the third consecutive year, holding off star apprentice Jerry Chau Chun-lok 61 wins to 58.
Karis Teetan had an up-and-down night, taking out the opener with Success Allstars – David Ferraris’ first win in two months – before hitting the turf when Island Shine fell in the fourth race. Thankfully, the Mauritian escaped without injury and was able to complete his book of rides.