Lucky Nine and Glorious Days flop miserably
Hong Kong horses again drew blanks on foreign shores with a disappointing duo failing to fire in yesterday's Yasuda Kinen, as Japanese comeback horse Strong Return emerged as contender for December's Hong Kong Mile with a bullocking victory.
The Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine faded to 11th after being placed perfectly in the run by Brett Prebble, while John Size's Glorious Days seemed overwhelmed by his first overseas Group One and finished 14th.
Lucky Nine's long season started with a trip to Japan and it ended in the same country with a tired effort, his Horse of the Year claims left in limbo.
'He just wasn't the same horse today, he's had a long season and he has just come to the end of it,' said Prebble, who had his mount one off the fence and handy at first, and dropping back to better than midfield as the leaders maintained a debilitating pace.
'He gave me a lovely feel, approaching the turn I came out on the better part of the track ... I felt he was going to give me a nice kick to the line, he gave me a short burst, but it died quickly.'
Fownes said Lucky Nine had shown all of the right physical indications pre-race, but had clearly reached the end of his tether.
'You couldn't have faulted him during the week, he was scoping clean, he was eating up well, he looked great in the coat - but you just don't know until they are put under those conditions - you don't know until race time that they've gone a bit over the top,' he said.
More than 20 horses have competed under the Bauhinia flag in overseas events this season, and unless either Little Bridge or Joy And Fun can prevail at Ascot later this month, it will mark just the second time in eight years that a Hong Kong horse has failed to win a foreign race.
Glorious Days' jockey Douglas Whyte was hard at work in the early stages as the field tore along at race record speed (1.31.3), Size saying his horse 'just never travelled'.
Whyte added: 'He never got his bearings and he is just a bit immature. He has only had a handful of runs and, up against the big boys you, can't do many things wrong. I just put it down to greenness and lack of race experience.
'I had always envisaged being eighth or ninth but I couldn't even hold that position. I came out of the gates and started to go backwards instead of forwards.
'I was riding him hard at the 1,200m just to maintain a rearward position. Normally I can put him anywhere in the run, but as they've all taken off, I've niggled him along, and I didn't really want to get into a speed battle.'
The race was run at such lung-bursting sectionals that Lucky Nine and Glorious Days ran faster times (1.32.1, 1.32.4) in defeat than Bullish Luck's winning time (1.32.6) in 2006.
Winning jockey Yuichi Fukunaga, who had a five-timer yesterday and two more wins at Hanshin on Saturday, produced a come-from-behind win, benefiting from the solid tempo.
Strong Return was second-up after six months on the sideline because of a leg fracture, and Fukunaga, who rode Eishin Preston to victory in the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup in 2002 and 2003, claimed the Noriyuki Hori-trained six-year-old still had some upside. 'This horse, despite his very high ability, still has a lot of room for improvement and could win more Group One races,' he said.