Now's the time to grab the bull by the horns

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 May, 2009, 12:00am

When Sacred Kingdom's connections sit down to decide whether to attempt 'legend' status at Royal Ascot next month, the ticks in the yes column will be overwhelming and all they need to do is sift through their own quotes after winning the KrisFlyer Sprint on the weekend.

Trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fie, for example, was thrilled with how Sacred Kingdom travelled on his first tour overseas. The gelding handled the flight beautifully and then put on body weight - always a good sign with a horse in mid-campaign.

He produced top form at his first left-handed race start, ran a fast time and beat an exceptional local horse, which is never easy wherever you go.

Yiu added that he felt Sacred Kingdom was the best he has had him this past year and that is probably a key point in going to the Golden Jubilee Stakes in England on June 20.

After a nine-month break from racing when his 2008 summer spell was followed by the sesamoid injury, the five-year-old took time to regain his fitness and ring craft and jockey Brett Prebble insists Sacred Kingdom 'is just coming right'.

Sure, the British sprints don't offer anything special in prize money, with the Golden Jubilee (around HK$5.4 million) and the July Cup (HK$4.8 million) both worth less than the KrisFlyer and they come at the end of our season, so there are usually arguments why a gelding might be better kept here for the summer and then try Japan.

But here is an outstanding horse still on the way up, with nothing to play for at home except a rest and the logistics of a trip to Britain are strong. Sacred Kingdom returned home yesterday to do two weeks of quarantine at Sha Tin, but can use the training facilities during that time, which will take him to June 1.

If he was to make the trip, he would likely leave a week or so later, arriving in England about 10 days before the Golden Jubilee and experience with the international races here shows that to be an appropriate gap. He has no quarantine regulations to satisfy at the English end of the travel.

Then consider what is before him. Of course, winning on foreign soil doesn't come easily, but as Cape Of Good Hope and the Australians have shown, if ever you wanted to tackle the Europeans on home soil it would be with a sprinter - be in no doubt, Hong Kong is the centre of the turf sprinting universe.

Twenty days after the Golden Jubilee is the Group One July Cup at Newmarket and whether or not Yiu and owner Sin Kang-yuk decide that is a bridge too far, there is also the prospect of giving Sacred Kingdom a rest over there in a lush green paddock rather than his box at Sha Tin.

Of course, there are achievements waiting on home soil or even in Japan later in the year, but there is also the shadow of Silent Witness hanging over them.

Win another Hong Kong Sprint, win a Sprinters Stakes in Tokyo, even hold the title of world's champion turf sprinter for a third year - Silent Witness did all that.

Sacred Kingdom is a once-in-a-lifetime horse and those sorts of horses reach a point where prize money is not the first consideration for a proud owner.

This is Sacred Kingdom's time - a rising six-year-old, he won't get any better or tougher, physically or mentally, than he is now and that is the time to take on the world.

Takeover Target has become an idol around the world - they are talking about a Hollywood movie about his career - and despite his clobbering in Singapore, he will trek on to Ascot. That's why Joe Janiak has had so much success with that great galloper. He isn't afraid to lose and keep trying.

Now that he has shown he is really back, Sacred Kingdom has the chance to do something that Silent Witness, for all his greatness, did not achieve. We all think he would have towelled them up in England and made the world, not just Asia, know his genius but the truth is that we'll all die wondering - these assignments come down to that lovely British SAS motto: 'Who dares wins.'

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