Grant van Niekerk was centre stage at Happy Valley on Wednesday night with a bit of tack drama and a double featuring a long-odds score in the night’s feature.

The South African delivered 166/1 shot The Full Bloom (119lb) with a late run to deny the fiendishly-named Mr Darthvegar (125lb) and scoop the night’s trophy race, the Class 4 Hong Kong Rugby Union Cup Handicap (1650m).

“It was always going to be difficult because I thought it was a competitive field but I just rode him as confidently as I could. I gave him a good warm-up at the start,” Van Niekerk said of the Dennis Yip-trained six-year-old.

“I did come in with a little bit of confidence because he’s got some ability. He’s just maturing into quite a nice horse.”

That win wrapped up a double. Van Niekerk took the opener on the Peter Ho-trained Bonito, making all in the Class 5 Tsim Sha Tsui Handicap (1650m). His evening’s work took his season’s tally to 21.

“It was straightforward, Bonito ran to form. I’m just glad I’m starting to get some winners!” he said.

But the rider had an awkward time of it in race two, the Class 4 Shek Kip Mei Handicap (1000m) as he struggled to keep sixth-placed Captain Boss moving in a straight line. The rider had to take a firm hold down the straight, pulling tightly on the left rein to counter the fact that his mount’s tack had gone awry.

“The bit went through,” he said. “He was hanging quite badly in when my bit came right through so it was very tough for me to ride him and I could feel he was running on quite well.

“I reckon if that hadn’t happened I’d have probably had a good chance of winning because they went pretty quickly. It’s a pity about the bit.”

Harley strikes with Iron

While Van Neikerk was struggling aboard Captain Boss, Martin Harley was getting a dream run from General Iron (122lb).

Harley has found things tough – as most jockeys do – in the early months of his Hong Kong experience. The Irishman arrived at the city track tonight booked for only one ride, aboard a horse without a win since November 2015.

But the stars aligned in the Class 4 dash. Harley snagged his third win since arriving in early February thanks to a strong pace, which suited the David Ferraris-trained closer. When the front-running Look Eras (133lb) began to falter, General Iron was already hurtling home at full tilt and rattled on by to score by a half-length.

“I wasn’t that busy here today, really!” Harley said. “He was due that win and thankfully it was today. He’s been running well.

“Mr. Ferraris has given me a good chance the last few weeks and it’s nice to back up with a winner this soon for him. He’s a fair man and great to ride track-work for in the mornings.”

Harley’s efforts have seen him legged-up on one or two useful types in recent weeks, but the breaks have not gone his way.

“I’m just trying to make the best of what I’m getting. It’s not easy but the last few weeks I have been getting better chances,” he said. “I think I’ve got five or six rides on Monday, so that’s good – I’ve been busier at Sha Tin than at Happy Valley. But I had my first winner at Happy Valley, so it’s a lucky track for me, and now I’ve found a second winner here so it’s good.”

The night’s highest quality event went to Turin Redstar under Derek Leung. Trainer Frankie Lor’s consistent five-year-old took the Class 2 King’s Park Handicap (1650m) from a pair of pre-import Group 1 winners, Rivet (126lb) who took the 2016 Racing Post Trophy, and Ruthven (132lb), winner of the 2017 Queensland Derby.

“He’s been in very good form this season and very honest,” Leung said. “This time, finally, he had a good draw (4) for me and him. He jumped positively, which meant he could race handy with cover and that’s why we were able to win the race.”

After Captain Boss’s mishap, trainer Tony Millard enjoyed better fortune in the finale. The handler’s game grey Rickfield appeared in great heart and bounded down the home straight under the in-form Umberto Rispoli to take the Class 3 Ho Man Tin Handicap (1650m).

Jockey Karis Teetan and trainer Tony Cruz partnered to land section two of the Class 3 Kowloon Bay Handicap (1200m) with Waldorf. Section one went to the John Moore-trained endearing under Chad Schofield.

Sunny Dragon took the Class 4 Kowloon Tsai Handicap (1200m) under Matthew Chadwick for trainer Richard Gibson.

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Monday, 22 April.