Long shot wins Macau Derby
OUTSIDER Royal Knight (45-1) claimed Macau's first Derby at Taipa yesterday, as punters took a beating in the $1 million 1,800-metre classic.
The Otard XO Derby had looked to be at the mercy of joint favourites Rock 'N Roll and Ground Commander, the latter having chalked up five straight wins.
Both were sent off at 5-2 but the enthusiastic cheers of the Taipa crowd turned to groans as both horses caved in not long after the start of the finishing straight.
That left the race at the mercy of Royal Knight, trained by John Gilmore and given a perfect ride by New Zealander Grant Davison.
Royal Knight scored a ridiculously easy three-length win from rank outsider Kin Chuen King (90-1), on which Stephen Burridge was riding for leading trainer Claude Charlet.
It was left to 8-1 chance Spiritual Warrior to salvage something for supporters of the more fancied runners in the full field of 14.
Spiritual Warrior, trained by Charles Leck, finished third having looked a real chance half-way down the straight.
Taipa debutant Top Forden also did well, finishing fourth. Trained by John Oxx, with whom he won the Ireland's Lincolnshire Handicap, he looks to have a big future at Taipa.
He raced in Ireland as Kharizabad and was on offer to David Hill in Hongkong before being sold to Cheung Hok-man in Macau.
Davison jets back to New Zealand tonight basking in the limelight of his biggest race success.
He said: ''I have won a New Zealand Cup before and ridden a lot of multiple winners. But this is certainly my first Classic. And I can honestly say that I really thought we could win it.
''The ground came up right for us. We needed a fast track and we got it. He was loving it out there and finding his own gaps. I knew before the turn it would be us.'' Davison, on a three-month visitor's licence, has had that extended until the end of the season and will return in 10 days.
For trainer Gilmore it was the climax of a tough and sometimes trying season.
''It hasn't been easy but this does make it all worthwhile. I believed he could win it because I knew the ground would suit him - he was all at sea in the soft ground for the Macau Governor's Cup. I also believe that Cup run brought him on a bit.
''He was absolutely ready for it today. He has been jumping all week, never left an oat and loved his work.
''And he was one horse in the field I knew would run out the trip on his ear. A lot of the rest of them were having problems doing that,'' said Gilmore.
Charlet was pleased with the run of his shock runner-up but said: ''He didn't deserve to be at that price because he was not that far away in the Derby Trial.'' And there were no real excuses for the beaten favourites. Rock 'N Roll's jockey Danny Brereton said: ''He just wasn't enjoying it. We got across well enough and he has won from in front before, but he was hanging a bit and was beaten at the turn.'' Ground Commander was ridden back in the field, or just off the pace, but he may not have entirely relished that. He made a forward move at the turn, where he seemed to be travelling fairly well, but found nothing under pressure.
There was a neck between Kin Chuen King and Spiritual Warrior and the latter, with Colin Dean up, was denied a totally clear run down the straight.
And that was also the case with the gambled-on Good Earth (8-1).
A total of $3.7 million was bet on the race.