King Kan bags the silver
CUPS King Brian Kan Ping-chee not only sent out Happy Guy to triumph in a pulsating finish to yesterday's $1.25 million San Miguel Silver Tankard, he saddled Right Way to finish a tantalising short-head second just for good measure.
''The Champ'' - as he will always be called due to the stranglehold he exerted over the trainers' championship in the late eighties - was justifiably puffing proudly on one of those fat cigars which are his hallmark shortly after the feature event.
Through a haze of celebratory smoke, he beamed: ''It proves I'm still the trainer for the big occasion. I'm the big-money man.'' The contest was marked by brilliant rides from Mick Kinane on Happy Guy and John Marshall on Right Way.
They had 11/4 lengths to spare over Deerfield who stuck on gamely for third with Optic Empire the hard-luck story of the race finishing full of running in sixth having been badly hampered in running.
Kan went on: ''It was very hard for me to split these two horses. I've always liked Right Way as he is a very hard horse and was very fit for today's race.
''But I've also been very pleased with the way Happy Guy has come to himself this season.
''It was really very difficult to choose between the two of them as the result shows. I'm just delighted it has turned out the way that it did.'' It might not have done had Kinane not underlined just why he is regarded one of the world's elite jockeys.
Approaching the 800-metre marker in this mile event, the pace-setting Evasive Tactic had to check as Gold Yue Yee shifted in towards Right Way.
Soon after Evasive Tactic began to drop back through the field and was heading straight into Kinane and Happy Guy who were travelling beautifully on the inside fence.
But quick as a flash the ever-vigilant Kinane spotted the danger and had his mount out and around Evasive Tactic without so much as missing a stride.
''If I hadn't avoided him I'd still be out there now,'' laughed Kinane after racing.
''Well, at least they'd still be looking for me after the next.'' Happy Guy is yet another example of the quality of the Irish imports and the impact they have made in recent seasons.
Kinane was actually asked by his former trainer Tommy Stack to ride him in the Group Three Cork And Orrery at Royal Ascot when he was a three-year-old but he declined the ride to return home to ride at a night meeting in Ireland.
He wasn't declining the ride yesterday and he made the point: ''Any horse that can run River Verdon to a short head at level weights as this fellow did in the Stewards' Cup has to be pretty smart.
''He had plenty of weight today but he had earned it. He was really genuine and honest throughout the run, especially at the top of the straight when things got a little bit tight for a while.'' Marshall had similar words to say about Right Way who gave his all and ''put in a really brave effort.'' Deerfield came from towards the rear of his field to snatch third close home from the improving Saboatan who put in by far his best effort of the season.
But Gerald Mosse was his own worst critic after Kadbridge, one of the leading fancies for this, the oldest sponsored race on the calendar, had finished eighth of the 14 runners.
Mosse, a perfectionist, was probably being far too harsh on himself as his mount was drawn out in the wilds in barrier 12.
However he said candidly: ''I rode him like a boy, not like a man. I was stuck out wide all the way despite trying to get him covered up.
''Every time I thought I was getting him in, we were getting pushed out again.
''He then came there with a good run and picked up strongly for me for about 150 metres in the straight ''But in the final 200 metres he was not so strong so maybe this was too far for him, anyway.'' Ivan Allan's much-vaunted Australian import, McBrave, ran a tad better to finish 11th but he has yet to acclimatise.
Dean McKeown thought that Dashing's 12th position indicated that he had gone over the top for the time being after a busy first half of the season.
Gold Yue Yee failed to see out the mile but Endurance ran much better in seventh and is returning to his best form of last season.