Mr Vitality prevails in last-stride thriller
GLORY horse Mr Vitality kept his unbeaten record intact - but only just - on a night which had everything at the gala opening meeting of the showpiece $1 billion Happy Valley track yesterday.
There was an amazing dead-heat in the first event, a big-priced victory for the improving woman apprentice Win Chung on Picador in the third, a dramatic fall in the feature race, a packed house and plenty of punting as the city venue lived up to its reputation for providing racing theatre. But above all the Ivan Allan-trained Mr Vitality showed a spot of class and a stack of courage as he fought back valiantly to short head former International Bowl hero, Winning Partners, in the Happy Valley sprint trophy under replacement rider Lance O'Sullivan.
Allan was patting his heart after the tote board flashed up that his Australian import had prevailed. 'I can't take too much more of this and I know another man who will be feeling the same in England,' he said. 'He's already been on the phone four times tonight and I reckon it's going to be ringing again pretty soon,' smiled the master mentor who was also on the mark with 41-1 chance Ellen's Romance in the last to go two clear in the standings.
Allan was referring to Mr Vitality's owner, CITIC chairman and Jockey Club Steward Larry Yung Chi-kin, whose business commitments prevented him attending. 'It was a big effort from Mr Vitality to come back from a mile and win over 1,200 metres as I'm obviously training him for the 1,800 metres of the International Cup,' Allan added.
'But he had to have one more race for that preparation and I'm just delighted for him that he's kept his perfect record intact.' Last night's success means Mr Vitality has six from six in the territory and will start favourite for the $5.5 million International Cup on December 10. He will take a power of beating.
Take nothing away from Winning Partners. He can now go to the Bowl in the best form he's been since taking the 1,400-metre event two years ago. The first leg of the sprint triple crown was marred by the Felix Coetzee's fall from Victory And Gold but the good news is that the South African ace suffered nothing more than a momentary blackout.
He couldn't remember his fall but was talking and lucid as he was taken by ambulance to spend the night under observation at the adjacent Hong Kong sanatorium. Coetzee's spill had nothing to do with the track which 'rode great' according to an elated O'Sullivan.