'The one thing he had going for him was the weight,' says trainer Oughton
EXPENSIVE buy Desert Fox defied the flint-like conditions of the Sha Tin track to pull off an upset in the $2.1 million Group Three Sha Tin Trophy yesterday.
Desert Fox (12-1), given an immaculate ride by Alan Munro for trainer David Oughton, finished third in the Irish Derby in bog-like conditions.
And his only form in Hong Kong has been over plenty of ground - and with cut in it.
This was his first Hong Kong success and he beat topweight Johan Cruyff (3-1) by three-quarters of a length in the 1,600-metre race, which is a main lead-up event to the International Races in December.
Johan Cruyff, who finished fourth in the Irish Classic, ran superbly first-up and is going to come on hugely from this outing.
Given that Desert Fox was third and Johan Cruyff fourth at The Curragh in successive years, the key to this surprise success unquestionably lay in the respective weights. Johan Cruyff carried 135 pounds while Desert Fox was on 113 pounds which, solely on their Irish form, gave the winner a huge advantage.
Desert Fox also had the benefit of an earlier run but it was a highly encouraging win and Oughton, who won the Derby for owner Paul Kan Man-lok with Que Sara Sara, said: 'His main target is definitely the Vase in December. It was the real Desert Fox today if you like but, in all honesty, the one thing he had going for him was the weight. He ran well last time for Douglas Whyte, but he wasn't on him today because I did not want him at any further weight disadvantage in relation to the handicap.
'Alan [Munro] was suspended last time but he was available today and did the minimum. It all definitely helps, and it did today.' Champion trainer David Hayes had every reason to be delighted with the runs of both Johan Cruyff and Hunting Lad, who finished a further length back in third place in the 12-runner event.
He said: 'It was very pleasing. He has been working well but there was no question of me having him wound up tight for this.
'This will bring him on plenty and we are now going straight for the Hong Kong Cup in December.' Johan Cruyff came off a straight line about 150 metres out and came in dramatically, although it did not affect other runners. Freddie Sanchez, who was widest round the home bend, quickly straightened the former Patrick Biancone-trained star and finished the race off fairly.
Munro did everything right on the winner and took full advantage of a vital split which came his way about 200 metres out, powering the winner through and keeping him right up to it.
Considering his proven penchant for softer ground, Desert Fox's willingness to stretch out really well over the concluding stages was more than a trifle surprising.
If he can now carry a lot more weight and still move well, there are going to be other opportunities for Desert Fox which did not seem to exist before yesterday's sterling effort.
Trainer Ivan Allan will be mulling over the result of the Trophy race as he winds up his buying mission overseas.
Oriental Express, the former Horse Of The Year, will derive benefit from the run, but supporters might have expected a little more when the chips were down about 100 metres out.
But Oriental Express went one-paced to the line, raising some doubts that he is not quite the potent force he once was.
Danzighill (10-1), also well weighted against the principals, held on for fourth.
Win For Lily (45-1), all but tailed off at the turn, produced an great late run under Robbie Fradd to finish just out of the frame, dead-heating with stablemate Oriental Express for sixth place.