Popular French jockey Olivier Doleuze knew it was time to cut short his recuperation from a freak injury when he picked up the call from John Size which paved the way to a welcome double at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Size’s team is almost unstoppable at present and the champion trainer moved to 56 wins when Perpetual Joyance (Karis Teetan) and Arm Runda (Doleuze) scored, but the winners have been harder to come by for Doleuze, even before his bizarre accident on February 15.
Riding the leader, Grand Harbour, hard against the fence at the finish of a race at the Valley, Doleuze suffered a nasty right foot injury when it struck the butt of the running rail at the gap left for the photo finish.
He was in great discomfort on the night, although later cleared of any fracture, and had not ridden since but said he knew the time for his comeback had arrived when Size rang.
“To be honest, I could have done with one more week so I could get some really strong work into my legs. But John called me and he had two good rides and you don’t say no to that kind of chance,” Doleuze said.
And he made the most of it, parking Arm Runda behind the speed before a hard fought and narrow win, holding off the late finish of High Volatility to give Doleuze his first win for Size since April last year at just his 10th ride for the yard since then.
But the comeback night didn’t end there for Doleuze, who teamed with Caspar Fownes to get Victory Marvel home by an even narrower margin in the final race for a confidence-boosting double.
“It’s great for Ollie to get a double the first night back after what happened, and he’s forming a good partnership with this horse,” Fownes said. “Victory Marvel pings the gates normally and I thought he might have the speed to cross them but I did say to Ollie ‘don’t be afraid to ride him more quietly and not lead’.
“He had to nurse him a bit around the first turn but then he sat outside the leader and responded well in the straight, even though he wandered a little bit. He’s really getting to know what it’s all about now this horse but I think there’s still a bit of improvement there.”
The double took Doleuze to 10 wins for the season, and Zac Purton also managed a double, pushing trainer Almond Lee’s tally to 12 with the victory of Excellence then adding Andoyas for David Hall after looking in trouble at the top of the straight.
“It’s a good ride now,” laughed Hall. “I guess the horse needed every bit of the 1,800m tonight coming back from 2,200m last time, but he was fresh after five weeks without a race and the pace on helped him.
“He’s a typical European who has taken time to settle in and he’s come solid now. I only wish we could find some longer races for him because he’s a true stayer and these races are just a bit sharp.”
Lee is walking the plank again for his licence, needing to satisfy the Jockey Club’s performance criteria or face tough questions, but he seems well on the way to getting his 16 winners.
Excellence has provided two of them and might even bring in another if his physique doesn’t hold him back.
“Before he won in Class Five, he hadn’t done well in Class Four. He took a long time to acclimatise but when he won the first time he was showing that he’s starting to perform so now he is OK with Class Four,” Lee said. “I worry about him going up in the weights though, he is so small and he isn’t an apprentice’s ride, at the moment anyway.”
For Joao Moreira coming off the heroics of his eight-win Sunday, the night started promisingly with a win on Show Mission but that was to be the end of the good news, with only minor placings afterwards.