First Happy Valley ride... No problem for De Melo

In a meeting of firsts on Wednesday night, September 13th, at Happy Valley's season-opening fixture, Keagan De Melo and Andrea Atzeni celebrated significant breakthrough victories with momentum-building triumphs.

Recruited to bolster Hong Kong's world-class jockey ranks, Keagan De Melo, the reigning South African champion, and European Classic-winning jockey Andrea Atzeni showcased impressive credentials in decisive fashion at only the second meeting of the season with their fourth and fifth rides, respectively.

De Melo succeeded at his ride around the unique contours of Happy Valley's city circuit when Caspar Fownes-trained Valhalla won the Class 5 Yi O Handicap (1200m) - only three days after the pair had finished fifth at Sha Tin on September 10th.

Atzeni quickly followed suit when the Sardinian prevailed on Mega Bonus for trainer Ricky Yiu in the second section of the Class 4 Tai O Handicap (1200m).

De Melo displayed telling poise in the straight when Valhalla was blocked for a rails run, coolly changing course before peeling out to down Vamos and Multimore.

De Melo was predictably elated after breaking through and expressed his gratitude to Caspar and his team for the opportunity. He mentioned, "It’s a good start, and I enjoy these types of courses, so hopefully it can be onwards and upwards from here. Everyone says how tough it is, and to get a breakthrough like this very early, I'm very lucky to be in this position."

Fownes was delighted to have snared a win with Hong Kong International Sale graduate Valhalla, who placed only once in 16 previous starts. He said, "It’s unfortunate because in his first ‘prep’, before his first start, I thought he was flying and then he fell over badly and had a couple of problems and he was never the same horse. It’s been a long journey back. I appreciate the owners being patient and I hope we can repay them again.”

Referring to De Melo, four-time Hong Kong champion trainer Fownes said, “Obviously the guy can ride, being champion of South Africa. He’s obviously got talent and it’s like anything – if you get the opportunities you can perform. I'll throw a few decent rides his way, and I'm sure others will start to support him. I wish him the best.”

Atzeni rode in Hong Kong during the 2014/15 season and has returned with renewed determination and zest. He expressed his satisfaction with the win and Ricky Yiu's support, stating, "The place (Hong Kong) hasn’t changed much, but what I would say is I have changed, which is the main thing, and I’m enjoying it."

Derek Leung and Luke Ferraris shared riding honors with doubles. Leung prevailed on Manfred Man’s Kowloon East Star and David Hayes-trained Harmony N Blessed, while Ferraris made an equally auspicious start to the season with a brace aboard Francis Lui’s Hameron and Xponential for Douglas Whyte.

Francis Lui also slotted a double with Joy Coming, ridden by Keith Yeung, and Hameron. Hugh Bowman and Tony Cruz continued their bright starts to the season with D Star.

Overall, it was a night of impressive victories and renewed determination for these talented jockeys and trainers at Happy Valley's season-opening fixture. 

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