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December 13, 2015
words by STEPHEN HOWELL IN HONG KONG
photography by HONG KONG JOCKEY CLUB
Japan, with a fair bit of help from outstanding British jockey Ryan Moore, had a great Group 1 day at the Longines International Race Meeting at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on Sunday, December 13.
Details of the Group 1 races …
The $HK16.5 million Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m)
First prize $HK9,405,000
Highland Reel, the horse that won this race brilliantly, finished only third behind Winx and Criterion in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, but don't be fooled into thinking it was a form reversal that enabled him to beat one of the world's best older 2400m horses, Flintshire (winner of the Vase race last year and twice second in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe).
At Sha Tin the distance suited better, there was no fast lane as was the case at the Valley, where Winx — a star, by the way — got to it and was too good for the rest.
In Hong Kong, Ryan Moore rode Highland Reel perfectly in taking him to the lead, settling him beautifully when Harbour Master scooted around the field in the back straight and then, in the home straight, carrying 5lb less, went to the line more strongly than the older Flintshire, who had gone past him to look a certain winner.
Moore said the almost-4YO Highland Reel was a hardened 3YO who had turned into a very good horse. He is trained for Coolmore by Aidan O'Brien, and he went back to Ireland from Melbourne before flying to Hong Kong.
Australia's Preferment finished seventh, beaten almost eight lengths. Rider Hugh Bowman said: "He was OK, and he is only going to get better."
The $HK18.5 million Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m)
First prize $HK10,545,000
Peniaphobia went one better than last year in the sprint when, ridden by Douglas Whyte, he was just nutted by another local Aerovelocity (Zac Purton).
This time Hong Kong-based Brazilian Joao Moreira took the Dandy Man 4YO to the lead from a wide gate and controlled the race.
The heavily-backed second favourite held out hot-pot Gold-Fun (Christophe Soumillon) and Not Listen'tome (Hugh Bowman), much to the delight of a crowd that saluted Moreira as he saluted them.
It was the premier jockey's 300th win in Hong Kong in two-and-a bit seasons.
The $HK23 million Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile (1600m)
First prize $HK13,110,000
Ryan Moore made it two elite wins when his Japanese mount Maurice won the Mile in a tough display. He challenged with and beat off Hong Kong's champ Able Friend, who just held off Giant's Treasure for second.
Moore indicated the winner didn't have the zip he had when he won the Group 1 Mile Championship in Japan on him three weeks ago, but "he got in a battle and he wanted it".
Able Friend was passed fit to run after a morning examination had revealed a minor foot problem.
The $HK25 million Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup (2000m)
First prize $HK14,250,000
Japan dominated the main race, the Cup, with an all-the-way win by $38 chance A Shin Hikari, ridden by Yutaka Take, and a strong-finishing second from Nuovo Record (Ryan Moore). Local Blazing Speed was third from another Hong Kong horse, Designs On Rome, the favourite and last year's winner.
Damien Oliver finished fifth on Lucia Valentina, five lengths from the winner. The other Australian rep, Criterion (Craig Williams), was ninth, beaten 7.5 lengths.
Earlier, Gailo Chop, the Australian-French entrant in the Cup, was withdrawn because of lameness.
Australian riders to win support races were:
Zac Purton, on Happilababy, who paid $9.10 for the win, in the Fantastic Light Handicap (1800m) — Chad Schofield finished second on the heavily-backed second favourite Gold Dragon.
Brett Prebble on Winston's Lad in the J J The Jet Plane Handicap (1200m).
Hugh Bowman on the impressive Werther, who ran second in the South Australian and Queensland Derbys earlier this year. It was Tavistock 4YO's first Hong Kong start, and he is one of the early favourites for the Hong Kong Derby (for 4YOs) in March.
Craig Williams, on Fabulous One in the Lord Kanaloa Handicap (1200m), a fabulous ride ensuring an all-the-way win on a horse that now has won four straight.
Overall prizemoney for the international meeting was $HK83 million — there are just over $HK5 to the Australian dollar.
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