Sha Tin on agenda for brilliant Rakti
Veteran British trainer Michael Jarvis is eyeing a return visit for the $18 million Hong Kong Cup in December after Rakti's brilliant win at Royal Ascot on Wednesday.
Rakti ran a smashing second to champion Falbrav in last year's Cup, having the rare misfortune to bump into a horse who produced the highest-rating individual performance in the 25-year history of Sha Tin racecourse.
But with Falbrav now bundled off to stud in Japan, Rakti dominated the Prince of Wales's Stakes, the richest race over the five successive days of racing at the world's most prestigious race meeting.
'Now that's a big buzz!' an excited Jarvis told Britain's Racing Post. 'If I didn't get that buzz anymore I would pack up. This is the big stage, we have a high-profile horse and I'm anxious to do well,' added the trainer, who at 65 is the oldest active handler at England's major training centre, Newmarket.
'[Rakti] has not been training quite as well as he can,' he continued. 'You could put that down to becoming more laid back as he gets older. I knew he was fit enough, it was just a case of whether he was slightly rusty. He was up for this. He's the best horse I've trained. He has the most wonderful burst of speed on fast ground.'
It was the fourth Group One race in Rakti's career. His other majors included the Derby Italiano as a three-year-old and the Champion Stakes at Newmarket last year, in a season when Falbrav and Nayef were the only horses to get the better of him.
Rakti is now on course to complete the British Horseracing Board's Summer Triple Crown and capture its #1 million ($14.27 million) bonus, the richest prize in British racing. The other legs of the series are the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and the Juddmonte International at York.
'And the Hong Kong Cup is definitely on the agenda,' Jarvis added.
Rakti has had a history of problems at the barrier but they've been largely rectified by Jarvis's head lad Steve 'Yarmie' Dyble, who travelled with the horse to Hong Kong last year and is his constant companion back at Newmarket as well.
With Dyble's assistance, the five-year-old stallion colt moved obligingly into the gates at Royal Ascot and, once the race was off, took a prominent position on the heels of the pacemaker Lunar Sovereign. His rider, two-time champion Hong Kong jockey Philip Robinson, had a strong hold on Rakti for most of the journey but when he gave him his head two furlongs out, the race was quickly in the bag and Rakti had a healthy two-length margin in hand at the line.
Powerscourt won the race for second from Ikhtyar, with Godolphin's highly rated Sulamani a disappointing fourth. The Eclipse, for which Rakti is now 7-4 favourite (in from 5-1) with race sponsors Coral, could also be a target for Powerscourt and Ikhtyar.
However trainer John Gosden, who prepares Ikhtyar, said he was not expecting a turnaround result. 'The winner has won doing handstands,' he said.
Darryl Sherer, editor of Thoroughbredinternet.com, gave Jarvis and his staff great credit for the improvement in Rakti's general temperament and barrier manners.
'He put on quite a mulish display before the Champion Stakes as a three-year-old, which eventually saw him withdrawn, and his jockey fined for slapping the colt on the side of his head with the whip,' Sherer said. 'But none of those quirks can detract from Rakti's bravery in the heat of battle.'
Rakti also completed an international feature race double within a month for owner Gary Tanaka, who also has Epalo, the five-length winner of the Singapore International Cup.
Both Rakti and Epalo were sourced as horses in training by Tanaka, with a view to making them into international Group One performers. It's a case of mission accomplished in both instances.