Monopolize makes amends on hard track
HE failed in the Melbourne Cup mud but Monopolize came gloriously right for the Begg clan in the International Bowl at flint-hard Sha Tin yesterday.
Racing is a game that throws up more sad stories than fairy-tales but the head victory of Monopolize (12-1) in the 1,400-metre, international Group Two event was replete with drama.
Trainer Neville Begg is in his final season in Hong Kong and turned out Winning Partners (6-1) in a bid to win the Bowl for a second time. He also part-owned Monopolize which is trained by son Grahame and was ridden in dashing style yesterday by son-in-law Wayne Harris.
Begg booked Irish superstar Mick Kinane for the final race on Melbourne Cup Day but the ground was all against him.
It had needed a good run that day to ensure an invitation for Monopolize to compete in the Bowl but he ended up first reserve.
However, the Begg family's faith in the horse was obviously not misplaced. Monopolize was quickly elevated from his reserve berth following the first of a number of dropouts - and yesterday he won the race in splendid fashion.
Monopolize beat gallant Irish runner Desert Style (6-1) by a head with American runner Finder's Fortune (7-1) in third place.
And few of his supporters would have been on completely good terms with themselves soon after Monopolize straightened in the run to the line. Harris had only two behind him and plenty of work to do to get on terms. No sooner had he started a move than he was baulked for a run and had to switch inside and then back out again.
It was a chequered passage for Harris but Monopolize was always responding and when the final gap came, he was through quickly and picking up Desert Style with every stride.
Monopolize hit the line going away for a win that left nothing finishing behind him with hard-luck stories.
Finder's Fortune had set a strong pace and, like a number of American runners who have gone well in these races over the past few seasons, showed no inclination to throw in the towel in the straight.
But Desert Style, trained to the minute for the race and getting the really fast ground he likes, is also a tough campaigner and he had the American's measure about 200 metres out.
It was all so close for Irish rider Kevin Manning who had wanted desperately to win the Bowl and whose confidence in Desert Style was certainly not misplaced.
'It would have been the perfect Christmas present but, as we always say, that's racing.
'I did think we were going to get there because he was going well throughout the race. When we turned I had a horse under me and he hit the front quite easily.
'But good luck to Wayne, we are good friends and the winner was just that bit too good,' said Manning.
Winning Partners (6-1) never really got going from his bad draw and beat only one home. He was shuffled back and was not travelling like a possible winner at any stage.
It was a superb triumph for Grahame Begg, who said: 'You cannot ask for more than that. I was very pleased with him leading up to the race and there was never any doubt that he would run a good race.
'I am absolutely delighted, so are the whole family. This was something you dream about.' Finder's Fortune faded slightly for third with Mamzelle Pedgrille (12-1), the other Australian challenger, running a top race for Darren Gauci and trainer Ron Quinton to finish fourth.
The English challenge failed badly.
Young Ern was sent off the 4-1 favourite with Richard Quinn aboard but beat only two runners home - one of them Cool Jazz (10-1). The Clive Brittain-trained runner finished last but was never at ease on the very fast ground which saw a course record established.
Branston Abby (20-1) is a well-travelled mare who seems to thrive on racing but she did not seem to enjoy Hong Kong and was 10th.
Best of the local finishers was the Ivan Allan-trained Quick Action (20-1) who ran sixth with Heavily Armed (20-1) ninth and Right Way (45-1) 11th.
The Japanese runner Dojima Muteki (18-1) upheld the country's honour with a good fifth placing.
There was no joy for the New Zealand challengers although there had been some positive talk about the reasonably well-performed Ferragamo (30-1). She finished seventh in a fair run.