Pataca to end successful season as the undisputed Horse of the Year

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2007, 12:00am

The judges won't really have any choice but to hand the award for Hong Kong's Horse of the Year to Viva Pataca's owner Stanley Ho Hung-sun at Sha Tin on Monday.

As much as they might like to reward Vengeance Of Rain for his superb win against international competition in Dubai on March 31, the fact that Viva Pataca has smacked him not once, but twice since simply cannot be ignored.

Viva Pataca looked every inch a world-class horse himself in the Group One Champions & Chater Cup on June 3, spearing clear in the final 200 metres to not only put Vengeance Of Rain away, but do so arrogantly, by a big margin, in course record time.

Jockey Michael Kinane has described him as a better horse than Scorpion, on whom he won the Group One Coronation Cup at Epsom two days beforehand, and pledged to follow the horse wherever he races.

Viva Pataca has now won four Group Ones - the 2006 Derby, the 2007 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup and the last two editions of the Champions & Chater.

Vengeance Of Rain, who was crowned World Racing Champion for 2005, came back from a career-threatening heart problem to regain his mantle. He narrowly defeated Viva Pataca in a slowly run Hong Kong Gold Cup before stepping to 2,400 metres and crushing his rivals in the Dubai Sheema Classic, in one of Hong Kong's great international sporting moments.

If he had finished the season there, he would have been Horse of the Year for sure. But the fact he's come out on the losing end in two head-to-head battles with Viva Pataca since leaves the judges with no room to manoeuvre. Viva Pataca must be voted champion stayer and Horse of the Year.

So Vengeance Of Rain will again be consigned to the consolation prize and crowned champion middle-distance horse. Even though his major rival for this award will once again be Viva Pataca, he met Viva Pataca three times at 2,000 metres and beat him home in two of them.

Absolute Champion should waltz away with the champion sprinters award. His victory in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint, in course record time, was the supreme performance of the season by a sprinter.

Medic Power raced through the grades ultimately to a Group Three win that saw him lower the 1,200m record, but while that may be recognised with a nomination, it doesn't merit being placed above Absolute Champion, who returned to land the Chairman's Sprint Prize as well.

The champion miler award - where is King Solomon when he's really needed? There are six nominations - The Duke, Armada, Floral Pegasus, Joyful Winner, Able One and Good Ba Ba. This column would ultimately boil the competition down to two, The Duke and Armada, with the John Size-trained Armada getting the nod in a photo.

Joy And Fun's fifth win of the season should give the Derek Cruz-trained three-year-old the verdict for champion griffin, while Medic Power's 63-point rating rise selects him as most improved horse.

The mystery awards will be in the most popular horse and jockey awards, where more than 236,000 members of the public have cast their votes.

Lovers of the game

The number in thousands of racing fans who have voted for the most popular horse and jockey awards 236