Prebble's daring tactics win the day
A gutsy move by Brett Prebble early in the day paid off and provided the blueprint for his winning ride aboard Familists, as a long-term plan to target the HK$1.8 million ATV Cup came to fruition for trainer David Hall.
After a massive 12.5mm of rainfall between the third and fourth events saw the Sha Tin track deteriorate rapidly, Prebble gunned straight for the outside fence upon turning in the fifth on favourite Common Goal. It was a daring move, considering no other jockey had ventured that far off the inside fence to that point, but once successful, it became the pattern of the day and Prebble replicated the ploy on Familists in the feature.
After sitting back further than originally planned in the run because of the yielding track, three deep with cover, and rounding the turn widest of the field, Prebble drove Familists to the line for a decisive 11/4-length victory.
'It's a good feeling when you go wide like that and you're right,' Prebble said. 'You don't have to walk the track to know it will be like that, especially when the rail is in the 'C+3' and it rains like this, it is just faster out there. You can't go too wide on the turn, you've got to get it right, you can't get straight to the outside, it is all about how you get there.'
Hall had picked out yesterday's handicap as an ideal target for a consistent horse approaching his best mark after three wins, but probably just below the very best in town.
'When he won earlier in the season we thought it would start getting tough to find the right races for him and this might be the last chance to win something like this,' Hall said.
After a mid-season let-up, the progression of distances during the winner's mini-preparation - from 1,000m to 1,400m, where Familists was fourth both times - and then on to the target race, was very Australian in its style and execution.
'Brett said to me before the race, 'it's just like we would do back home, getting them right for the big race on the right day', which is a lot harder to do here,' the trainer said. 'I had to work out how we would get here ... with the programme the way it is for these horses, it's not easy, you've got to think about it to get it right.'
Before being imported, Familists never lived up to a massive boom and expensive yearling price tag of A$1.2 million (HK$9.13 million) in Australia. Raced as Hus Der Lieften, the flashy looker won two of his first three starts before going winless for 14 more starts. But since moving, he has been what Hall described as 'a perfect Hong Kong horse'.
'He eats, sleeps and works,' said Hall. 'He doesn't have any health issues and he seems to handle the climate here very well, he doesn't get too hot. You would certainly like a stable full of them.'
Prebble's navigation was hailed by Hall, but his effort on Common Goal had trainer Manfred Man Ka-leung sweating bullets. Watching the race on a monitor inside the weighing room, Man was left scratching his head as to where his runner was, as cameras lost sight of the grey, only to see his horse reappear late and nab Maelstrom on the line.
'I was scared,' Man said with a laugh. 'It was a worry because you could not see him until the last 50m before the winning post.'
It was Common Goal's first start for Man after a much-anticipated transfer from the struggling Andy Leung Ting-wah yard.
Man said he had not done anything out of the ordinary to bring the horse into form.
'Nothing special ... just give him some food and train him properly,' he said. 'We liked him before he was transferred, everybody knew about him, right?'
The number of wins Brett Prebble has racked up after yesterday's double