Top longshot

Ben So is surprised and delighted after Top Military’s success. Photo: HKJC

Top Military (NZ) (Swiss Ace) delivered a bazooka of a shock in section two of the Class 4 Staunton Handicap (1200m) at Happy Valley on Wednesday to help jockey Ben So to his first double since November 2016.

The six-year-old became the longest-priced winner at Happy Valley since Hong Kong racing turned professional in 1971, rattling home at odds of 283/1 under So to pip the 1.6 favourite Sky Show (NZ) (Showcasing).

“Unbelievable!” So said after weighing in. “If you see the record of the horse, you couldn’t expect he’d run that well.”

Top Military won a couple of races on wet tracks in New Zealand back in 2017 but had gone eight races without success in his injury-hit Hong Kong career, including when last of 12 over 1650m a month ago. The Benno Yung-trained gelding had previously raced around at odds of 434/1 and 374/1.

“I think the first-time blinkers must have changed the horse,” said So, who will retire at this season’s end. “He was flying home. I’m very happy anyway!”

Top Military outdid the Andy Leung-trained Kimberley Mine, who set a then-record – post-1971 – Happy Valley dividend of 196/1 on 15 March, 2006.

Winning Associates holds the overall professional era Hong Kong record with his 317/1 win at Sha Tin in 2001 but back in the amateur days of 1968, a 356/1 shot prevailed at the Valley. And, digging back even further, in 1939, before thoroughbreds took over the circuit, a ‘pony’ named Starlet paid $3,711.10 for a win in the Nil Desperandum Stakes over a mile, although the record is unclear about whether that was for a $10 or a $5 stake.

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