Bullish breezes in as Witness wilts
Yasuda Kinen next on cards for Cruz stable's star pair
Bullish Luck is on track to defend his 2005 Asian Mile Challenge crown after staging another of his astonishing finishing sprints, with this one ruthlessly sweeping away nine domestic and three international challengers in yesterday's $8 million Champions Mile.
After the seven-year-old had sizzled down the centre of the Sha Tin track to win his second Champions Mile, in identical time to last year's upset over Silent Witness (1:33.7), trainer Tony Cruz accepted an invitation from the Japan Racing Association to take the freakish miler back to Tokyo for the Group One Yasuda Kinen on June 4. The shock of the race was the dismal failure of heavily backed $25 favourite Silent Witness, who led the race to the 400 metres but folded as he'd never done before to finish ninth, almost six lengths behind.
The second shock was that the JRA invited Silent Witness to Japan too, despite a below-par showing which, on face value, gives him absolutely no chance in Tokyo. Shock number three was that Cruz happily accepted both invitations despite the cloud of uncertainty that hovers over Silent Witness.
The Champions Mile has only been an international Group One for two years and Bullish Luck has won them both, with yesterday's first prize of $4.5 million taking his bank balance to $36,941,800. If he wins the Yasuda Kinen, Japan's number one race at the metric mile, he will be eligible for a US$1 million bonus as the winner of two legs of the four-race Asian Mile Challenge Series. Hong Kong's Fairy King Prawn won the Yasuda Kinen in 2000.
Cruz was once again torn between his stars, delighted to be winning the race once more with barnstorming Bullish Luck but distraught that his all-time favourite horse, Silent Witness, had failed to produce the goods when favoured to do so.
'Everything was perfect for Bullish Luck today, he just loves fast ground like this,' Cruz began. 'I'm also delighted with the way Brett [Prebble] rode him and he will retain the ride in Japan as well.
'Bullish Luck finished fourth in the Yasuda Kinen last year and he was quite unlucky.'
Cruz could not disguise his concern for Silent Witness who, as expected, led on the bit under the guidance of Felix Coetzee but failed to find anything when he asked for something more on straightening.
'Obviously something must be wrong, because Silent Witness never fails,' Cruz said. 'I asked for the vets to scope the horse for me and there is nothing wrong there - no blood or mucus in his trachea. 'Maybe he just felt the hard track today - we'll know more when he's fully cooled down and we inspect him in the morning.'
Coetzee could shed little light on the subject. 'The only thing is that he went a little harder in front than I'd have liked, and even coming off the back straight I had my concerns,' he said. 'Then in the straight, he didn't find anything at all. Very disappointing.'
For Prebble, the two-time champion Melbourne jockey, the Champions Mile became the highlight of his three years in Hong Kong, overtaking his 2003 Champions & Chater Cup success on the David Oughton-trained Precision.
Prebble recalled his first impression of Bullish Luck, gained from the passenger seat on Ain't Here in the 2005 Stewards Cup. 'Ain't Here ran up to win the Stewards' Cup, and I thought he was going as fast as horses go,' he said. 'Then suddenly, whoosh, Bullish Luck swept by me in a couple of strides and went on to win the race, and we ran second. I've never seen a horse with finishing speed like his.
'It was the same today. When I clicked him up and asked him to go, he accelerated in an instant. I knew straight away we had it won. When he lets down that way, he's just awesome.'
Turnover for the meeting was $869 million, up $55 million (6.8 per cent) on the $814 million taken at last year's fixture. Attendance was also up from 26,267 to 29,379 (up 11.8 per cent).