'I wouldn't say Electronic Unicorn is better because Fairy King Prawn is one of the best, but he's on a par'
Redemption. Revenge. Call it what you will, but victory aboard Electronic Unicorn in the Hong Kong Mile would be sweet indeed for Robbie Fradd. A year ago, the South African sat atop Hong Kong's best chance at the International meeting and was beaten in agonising, anguished and ultimately angry circumstances.
Fairy King Prawn's short-head defeat at the hands of Sunline sent out shockwaves for months, from Greg Childs' record fine for discussing tactics ahead of Sunline's win to Fradd's sacking from Fairy King Prawn more than three months later after another big-race defeat in Dubai.
At the time, it was impossible to imagine how Fradd could ever find a horse as good as Fairy King Prawn. But now, 12 months later and with the dual Horse of the Year sidelined by injury, the wheel of fortune has spun round to leave Fradd in the hotseat again with virtually all of Hong Kong's hopes riding with him in the Mile. And the similarities do not end there, for Electronic Unicorn has the same electric turn of foot as Fairy King Prawn, the same ability to fire up the crowd as he launches his challenge, the same fragility and, as of his last-start win, the same official rating.
Fradd can see the comparisons. 'I wouldn't say Electronic Unicorn is better because Fairy King Prawn is one of the best milers in the world, but he's definitely on a par with him,' he says. 'Put it this way - if you put them both in a race Electronic Unicorn would give him a good go and there wouldn't be much between them. One difference is that Electronic Unicorn switches off a lot better than Fairy King Prawn. If you kick Fairy King Prawn out of the gates he can want to go, then as you drop him in he switches off. Electronic Unicorn jumps and then automatically switches off until you say, 'Come on, let's go'. When you bring him out, he just quickens immediately.'
Last year's defeat still rankles with the former champion, who was left out of his ground as Sunline set a false pace before holding off his dramatic stretch-long surge on Fairy King Prawn by a short-head. But he is adamant that his hold-up tactics, which eventually led to his sacking by Ivan Allan after Jim And Tonic had rallied to snatch the Dubai Duty Free from his grasp, were the only option.
'I remember last year's Mile as if it was yesterday,' Fradd says. 'I still say if Sunline hadn't got that soft lead, I would have beaten her. They took her on in Dubai and I beat her there. If they'd done that here, I would maybe have beat her a head instead of losing by a short-head.
'But take nothing away from her - she's the best in Australasia and she's one hell of a mare. It's easy to say I should have sat more handy on Fairy King Prawn, but he wasn't drawn well in some of those races. You could sit third or fourth on him if you're drawn in the first six, but it's not so easy if you're drawn wide.'
The Mile has been robbed of further spice by the absence of Sunline and Fairy King Prawn, but Fradd is happy about that. 'From my point of view the race is getting better for my horse. Maybe we'll get the chance to take on Fairy King Prawn later in the season.'
For now, Fradd is just thankful to have another winning chance in the Mile. He had ridden Electronic Unicorn only once before the start of this season but got another opportunity when owner Lo Ying-bin transferred the son of Housebuster to John Size.
'The owner has been a big supporter of mine and I can't thank him enough for giving me the chance,' he says. 'I rode a few winners for him the first season I was here and even after I split with Ricky, the owner asked for me to ride the horse in the Derby Trial and he ran third.'
Fradd admits that Electronic Unicorn's blistering last-to-first run over 1,200 metres in the National Panasonic Cup took him by surprise. 'I thought he had a chance, but I didn't expect him to do what he did. That's when I thought, 'This horse has got a big chance in any of his races this season'. I think he's a much happier horse this season. He's had a few little niggles in the past but he seems to have overcome them and he just seems a better horse.'
Electronic Unicorn was impressive in a different way over a mile last time, taking the Chevalier Cup from fellow Mile entrants Red Sun and Super Molly after getting out of a pocket halfway up the straight.
'He won OK, it was only a neck, but he did enough,' Fradd says. 'He had 133 pounds and Red Sun had 118 pounds and in Hong Kong that's a big difference. He hesitated slightly when the gap came but once he got in there he kicked on nicely. I don't think the race was run to suit my horse because Super Molly eased it up in front and basically it was not the pace I wanted. Hopefully I'll get a true pace in the Internationals this time, then you'll see what this horse can do.'
Fradd is not too familiar with the overseas form, but finds it can be misleading anyway. 'I don't go much on ratings or times - they're a bad guideline,' he says. 'Times in the UK aren't as quick as here, but the tracks are different. Here they're rock hard, while there they're just a normal good track and the times are a lot slower. But they come here and slaughter us - work it out for yourself.'
Even so, he believes that Electronic Unicorn has an advantage racing on home soil. 'He's taking on international company now and it's a big difference,' he says, 'but in Hong Kong you've got to have a turn of foot and that's what he's got. I don't know how the surface is going to come up yet on the day, but it's normally pretty firm at this time of year and it won't suit some of the overseas horses.'
Fradd knows the pressure is building again, but he adds: 'You can't go out there with the whole of Hong Kong on your shoulders. You just need to relax and enjoy it and if it happens, it happens. It's a big meeting and there's a lot of expectation from the public, but it's not as easy as it looks.
'Fortunately for me, he's got the class and he's got good people looking after him. That makes my job easier. John does a lot of the trackwork on the horse and I'm pleased about that because I'd be getting a bit nervous this week. John knows what he's doing and I leave that side to him and he leaves the races to me. It would be really great for John to win one of the Internationals in his first season. He's a hard worker, he knows his job and he knows his business.'
For Fradd, victory would remove some of the hurt he felt when he lost the ride on Fairy King Prawn. 'It's a hard pill to swallow when you get sacked from a nice horse,' he says, 'but it happens all round the world and every jockey has to go through it some time in his career. I just think I had a good time on the horse and all good things must come to an end some time.
'Then this horse comes along and that's why it's so satisfying every time he wins. Every time I go past the post on him it's great because that's the same kind of feeling I had with Fairy King Prawn in some of the big races. I count myself lucky to have ridden the two best horses in Hong Kong - I just hope I don't get sacked from this one.'