The evening began with fireworks as the 12 international jockeys were introduced to the expectant Happy Valley race fans, and ended with fireworks of a different kind as the 2012 LONGINES International Jockeys' Championship went right to the wire in the fourth and final leg.
Joao Moreira emerged the winner thanks to victories in the first and final legs but the bare facts hardly do justice to the drama that unfolded on the night.
The first leg of the four-race championship went to Singapore-based Moreira on board the Peter Ho-trained All The Winners.
Moreira gave the horse a fine tactical ride, breaking alertly from Gate 8 and was never headed, dictating the pace from the front, and having plenty in hand for an easy length and three quarter win over the 1650m trip, collecting 12 points for the win.
Yuichi Fukunaga did best of the rest in second place aboard Golden Osmanthus for 6 points, with Matthew Chadwick claiming 4 points for third aboard the late running Derek Cruz-trained Very Well.
Moreira said: "The trainer told me to take the lead so that was the plan but the horse jumped so quick that he made it easy for me.
"Then I was able to dictate my pace and that went all right until the last 600m, when I asked my horse to kick again.
"He made it very hard for the others to pass him and I reckoned that I was very fortunate to sit on top of such a brave horse.
"It is my second time here in this championship and my first win in it. It means a lot to me and helps me to ride with more confidence in the next one."
Moreira, however, could do no better than fourth, just outside the points, in the second leg. The race went to Ryan Moore aboard Absolute Fantasy for trainer Me Tsui, who raced in fourth spot before Moore produced a telling burst in the straight to emerge the convincing winner.
Local hero Douglas Whyte finished second (6 points) on Expectator for Peter Ho, with Tom Queally in third aboard Travel Guide claiming 4 points to open his tally.
Ryan Moore said after his win: "He looked like my best shot on paper today and everything went according to plan.
"What you need around here is a good draw and a straightforward horse and that was what I had. He switched off a bit before the straight but eventually did it well."
Zac Purton joined the fray in the third leg after driving home The Untouchablelad from off the pace for Peter Ho giving the trainer the second winner on the night, and taking a share of the lead in the Championship with Moreira and Moore.
Tom Queally's second place finish for 6 points on the Tony Cruz-trained Xilai Xianzi took his points total to 10, just 2 points behind the three leaders, while Craig Williams in third on Ming Hoi Treasure saw him open his account for the evening.
"It's good to get a winner as it's very competitive out there," said Purton.
"There was a good pace to the race, and he finished well."
So it was all down to the fourth and final leg of the Championship, and it was decided in the final strides when Joao Moreira and Zac Purton, two of the competition leaders fought out a tremendous duel to the wire with Moreira aboard the Peter Ho-trained Noble Deluxe edging out Purton on the Tony Cruz-trained Chancellor by a nose.
For Moreira it was a double on the night and 24 points, ahead of Zac Purton on 18 points with Ryan Moore back in third on 12 points.
The training performance of the evening went to Peter Ho who saddled three of the four winners in the IJC races.
Afterwards a delighted Joao Moreira said, "I am on top of the world and I don't really have words to describe it but I can thank the man upstairs for this especially as I didn't really think about my winning chance beforehand. It hasn't really sunk in yet."
Runner-up Zac Purton was a little disappointed, but philosophical in defeat. "It was a great night, but I feel as if I have been robbed.
"To lose the Championship by a nose is tough, but I won in Japan last week, so I can't complain, I guess."
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