Third time lucky as Mazal finally lands coveted Centenary Vase
PATIENT race planner David Oughton came good at yesterday's Sha Tin meeting when admirable stayer Mazal lifted the Group Three Centenary Vase, having been runner-up in the same event for the past two seasons.
Mazal's gritty last-to-first victory in the feature wrapped up a double for the affable Englishman and saw stable jockey Alan Munro performing the honours at his third Cup presentation in as many meetings.
Earlier, Oughton had reason to celebrated when Club Jockey Michael Hills weaved a circuitous route through the field to snatch the money aboard 26-1 bolter Holy Wine in a competitive-looking Class Three contest.
But it was Mazal's sizzling finish that will stay in the memory as he claimed the scalps of International Vase rivals Multi-Star (6.2-1) and Tequila Pop (3.6-1 favourite), in that order, with a desperate lunge right on the line. The margins were a head by a head.
Munro's determination was palpable over the final 50 metres as he produced the seven-year-old with a withering late run down the middle of the track.
Once he got into his ground, it was clear that Mazal would shake that bridesmaid's tag.
And considering he is a lengths-better galloper with some give in the ground, we are likely to see more of him in the winner's circle as the season progresses and the rains arrive.
Yesterday's brace took Oughton to 12 winners and the stable has struck a rich seam of form.
That goes for Munro, too, Mazal giving him his 16th success of the campaign.
Mazal had gone down to the brilliant Indigenous in last year's Centenary Vase and was made to make do with second money behind another of today's rivals, Deauville, 24 months earlier.
Meanwhile, French handler Patrick Biancone gave his supporters plenty to cheer about with a well-executed double of his own.
Stable jockey Eric Legrix gave little else a chance in the opener as Highland Legend (1.9-1 favourite) annihilated his griffin rivals to give newly appointed Jockey Club steward Brian Stevenson a timely victory.
The race was all but over just after straightening as the heavily supported debutant lived up to trackwork impressions by clearing out a facile 3.75-length winner over Sincere And Faith (5.1-1) with Courage Star (4.2-1) holding on for third.
It was one of Biancone's top juveniles from last term, Triple Expresso (9-1), who completed the double by leading from barrier to box in the Classes One and Two, 1,200-metre dash.
Senior local rider Eddie Lai was at the helm and he rated the athletic son of Selkirk to perfection after getting him away smartly from a wide gate (10).
Lai, who deserves more opportunities, kept him going all the way to the line and, although tiring, still had 1.75 lengths to spare over outsider Solid Contact (22-1) with Australian Group One-winning import Alf (3.7-1 favourite) holding down third spot.
The gallant David Hayes-trained Cheers Win (4.4-1) boxed on for fourth.