Kingdom has all the signs of a real star
'He's unbelievable - I would say certainly as good as Fairy King Prawn at the same stage of his career'
As good as Fairy King Prawn at the same stage.
They were probably words that trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fie thought he might never get the chance to say but Sacred Kingdom's breathtaking second-start win up the Sha Tin straight yesterday left him with no alternative.
Fairy King Prawn is one of the greats of Hong Kong racing, winning six of his first 14 starts for Yiu including the Chairman's Sprint Prize and the 1999 Hong Kong Sprint before he was transferred to Ivan Allan for the balance of his career. But Yiu now firmly believes that in Sacred Kingdom (Danny Nikolic) he has another sprinter-miler with the potential to be every bit as good as that brilliant gelding, after the son of Encosta De Lago kept his unbeaten record intact without breaking into a sweat.
'He's unbelievable - I would say certainly as good as Fairy King Prawn at the same stage of his career,' Yiu said. 'It's exciting. We haven't seen a horse winning like that for some time.'
Perhaps not since Silent Witness made his way through the grades in record time, in fact.
After beginning better yesterday than he had in his race debut, Sacred Kingdom travelled with the leaders and was jogging most of the way before Nikolic let slip a little more leather and the gelding cleared away.
And for the second time in two winning race starts, Nikolic was very easy on Sacred Kingdom through the final part of the race, keeping him under a hammerlock to keep the margin down to just over two lengths but the three-year-old still stopped the clock at a whistling 56.3 seconds.
'This horse does all the things that are typical of really good horses,' Yiu said. 'He doesn't use himself much in the mornings at trackwork, he's a good doer in the stable. He has a good attitude, a great mouth - he is so relaxed you can do anything at all with him. Sacred Kingdom has all the signs of a real star.'
And, also like Fairy King Prawn, although Sacred Kingdom is making a big name for himself early in 1,000m sprints, Yiu has no doubt that the future holds more than short-course dashes.
'To me he isn't a typical sprinter,' the trainer said. 'He will definitely go further, maybe in time as far as a mile, because he is so relaxed.'
With a double yesterday taking him to nine wins from just 56 runners, Yiu is enjoying a resurgence after a deeply disappointing year last season when his tally was 10 wins and he fell short of the Jockey Club's performance benchmark for the first time.
'Really, there have been a couple of disappointing years,' he admitted.
'But this year I put a new system in place at the stable and started to do a few different things in trackwork with the horses. And the team at the stable has got right behind me and things are working well.'
Yiu's earlier winner was the stayer Elfhelm (Andrasch Starke), who defied a poor prior record at Sha Tin to swamp the field in the Mount Parker Handicap (1,800m).
'He had been placed at Sha Tin but I told the owner the track is too firm for him to do his best here,' Yiu said.
'But having said that, I didn't think today's race was a good field, not a strong Class Four. And since I believe this horse is probably just a little better than Class Four, it gave him probably half a class in hand if he could handle the ground.'
Starke has not had too many opportunities since the start of his three-month contract but the German has seized the chances he has had and Elfhelm was his third win.
'Actually, I asked Gerald Mosse to ride the horse and he was committed to Chinsola,' Yiu said.
'But I really felt the horse needed a European rider so I went for Starke. Their style really suits this horse.'