Viva Pataca claims bragging rights
Moore's five-year-old turns tables on Vengeance after his Gold Cup defeat
Round two of the battle of the Derby winners in yesterday's HK$14 million Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup levelled the score to one-all, with Viva Pataca spectacularly avenging his Gold Cup defeat by Vengeance Of Rain.
Viva Pataca, ridden by Michael Kinane, sprinted quickly to take command at the top of the Sha Tin straight and never gave favourites Admire Moon and Vengeance Of Rain a look in.
When the judge called a halt to the carnage, he declared Viva Pataca the winner by 13/4 lengths, with Vengeance Of Rain staying on bravely for second, and Admire Moon a neck further back in third. The paid will now progress to round three in the HK$8 million Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m) on June 3, a race won by Vengeance Of Rain in 2005 and by Viva Pataca last year.
The Hong Kong stars completely overwhelmed a high-class international entry, with Admire Moon - the second most highly-rated turf horse in the world - a disappointing third that had owner Riichi Kondo talking none too politely of Japan's super jockey Yutaka Take. Sir Ernesto, a last-start all-the-way winner in the HSBC Premier Plate, held on bravely for fourth and delighted trainer Derek Cruz on his debut at racing's highest level.
Vengeance Of Rain's rider Anthony Delpech gave the Dubai Sheema Classic hero a perfect ride, but said the great stayer raced like he wanted 2,400m.
'I'd been scared all week that the horse wasn't quite as well as he'd been in Dubai, but he's still run the great race,' Delpech said.
'Full credit to David Ferraris, he's brought the horse back from Dubai to Hong Kong, back from 2,400 metres to 2,000 metres in the space of four weeks, and he's run second to a very good horse who was specifically targeted for this race.
'There's no doubt that having a run at 2,400 metres last start has taken the edge off his brilliance at 2,000 metres. Compared to how he felt in Dubai he was just a little bit flat. At the 300 metres, I thought we were in trouble but to his absolute credit, he never stopped trying and has fought his heart out. I'm very proud of him.'
There was plenty of acrimony behind the scenes in the Japanese camp, with a trainer Hiroyoshi Matsuda giving a gracious 'that's racing' quote to reporters but criticising Take's ride to others.
According to one Japanese source, owner Kondo said Take would no longer be riding the horse in the wake of this ride, where he was forced to cover ground after starting from barrier 10.
Take, speaking through an interpreter, blamed the travel from Japan to Dubai and back to Hong Kong, and the fact that Admire Moon had been away a long time, for the star four-year-old's indifferent performance.
'The pace was slow and that didn't suit him,' Take said. 'He relaxed quite nicely for me in the race but didn't kick on the same way he did at Kyoto or Dubai. But I want to come back and win the Hong Kong Cup on him in December, to show Hong Kong what he can really do.'
Winning trainer John Moore later revealed that a week of drama had preceded the QE II victory, with the gelding missing a vital gallop on Tuesday due to a shoeing problem and Moore having to send out an SOS to the Jockey Club's head farrier, Greg Murray.
'It was touch and go there for a while but a special thanks to Greg for all his work,' Moore said.
'I was very worried about it at the time but in hindsight, it may have worked in our favour. He's been the fresh horse of the race and he's raced that way, a lot more brilliant than the horses who have had more hard racing.'
While the locals came in 1-2-4, Dubai-based Herman Brown showed he has a proper horse in Sushisan (Kevin Shea), who finished fifth and only beaten 23/4 lengths.
However, things didn't work out for trainer Mike de Kock and jockey Weichong Marwing, who won last year's QE II with Irridescence and attempted to defend the title with Oracle West.
The navigational luck was not with Marwing, who began from barrier six and was caught three wide with no cover.
One can only imagine his chagrin as he saw Kinane, who had drawn in gate seven on Viva Pataca, burrowing up on his inside, hard along the rails, as they came down the back stretch.