HK International Sales a winner if Jewellery glitters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 March, 2009, 12:00am

The Jockey Club's International Sale manager Mark Player noted Unique Jewellery as being 'immature and open to improvement' as a yearling. Now he and other club officials are quietly hoping the gelding has enough improvement to give the sale a first classic win in tomorrow's HK$16 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin.

'He was one of those loose-walking O'Reillys, a good style of animal from a very good family and looked a very good buy at NZ$80,000 [HK$340,000],' Player recalled yesterday. 'It was the second year I had been at the Jockey Club buying and still fairly early days here for O'Reilly. But the early ones did well and gave the impression he was going to be a very good Hong Kong stallion.'

Unique Jewellery's family also included the good Hong Kong performers Billion Win and Trillion Win, both trained by Ivan Allan, and Billion Win had also gone through the International Sale.

'We've had quite a few high-class horses out of the sale, like The Duke and Scintillation, but we've yet to get a Derby winner, so we're hoping,' Player said. 'Coincidentally, the best Derby performance by a sale horse remains Billion Win's third in 1999 so Unique Jewellery has a chance to improve on the family's record, too.'

A month after Player bought Unique Jewellery, his half-sister, Marju Snip, landed the Group One Australasian Oaks, adding further lustre to a pedigree already bristling with classic-winning females.

By the time the Hong Kong sale came, owner Tung Moon-fai had to part with HK$4 million for the stylish bay but, with HK$4.5 million already banked pre-Derby under John Size, he has had no cause to regret it.

'Mr Tung told me he was going to buy at the sale and asked for an opinion. I gave him a short list of lot numbers and this was the one he came home with,' Size said. 'I don't recall exactly what it was I liked but it was certainly a pedigree that suggested he could do well, by O'Reilly out of a Snippets mare. A large part of the battle is getting horses that adapt to the environment. I'd been impressed with how horses by Snippets had enjoyed Hong Kong and O'Reilly's stock looked to be heading the same way.'

Many a nice pedigree gets left on the page when the racing starts but Unique Jewellery has gone on with the job, looking as good a chance as Size has sent out in the race - if he can get over one serious obstacle.

'If Collection performs he'll win, but the race for second looks competitive and Unique Jewellery is a winner of the Derby Trial last start,' said Size. 'He should get to relax from the draw and he and More Bountiful can both run well. The Derby hasn't been particularly good for me but they're valid chances for prize money at least.'