Thumbs Up confirms he is the next big thing with gritty performance
If Viva Pataca is a good measuring stick - and seven Group Ones plus HK$71.3 million in prize money suggests he surely is - then Thumbs Up confirmed his arrival as a big-time player with his gritty second in yesterday's HK$8 million Citi Champions & Chater Cup.
The four-year-old, hero of the Mercedes-Benz Classic Mile (Gr 1) in January, was beaten only a neck by the more mature stayer, who has proved himself time and again on the big stage.
Thumbs Up was ridden by Brett Prebble and was the first horse to make a move through circumstances beyond Prebble's control. But in the end, despite Viva Pataca having last run at him, Thumbs Up only went down by a neck at the end of a solidly run 2,400m and was as strong on the line as the winner.
'It was a great run - a bit disappointing to be beaten again in a big race, but a great run nevertheless,' said trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing.
'He is very brave, this horse, and never runs a bad race. Today we learned for sure he runs a strong 2,400 metres and he has only been beaten narrowly by a very good horse at level weights.'
Shum said Thumbs Up is now finished for the season, but he's already looking forward to next season with relish.
'He could go for either the Hong Kong Cup or the Vase, but his target will be the Vase (2,400m),' Shum added.
Prebble explained the rank outsider, Win Practitioner, may have cruelled it for Thumbs Up by unexpectedly racing in a forward position, then beginning to weaken from the 800m.
'If Win Practitioner isn't there, I think we win the race,' Prebble said.
'As it was, I had absolutely no choice but to move out three wide to avoid him, otherwise he collapses in my lap.
'Without that happening, I could have waited another 400 metres and get taken into the race by Packing Winner.
'After all the work he did, he's only been beaten a neck. I'm not taking anything away from Viva Pataca, great horse that he is, but I do believe my horse should have won.'
The race was, in fact, a case of history repeating itself for Prebble and owner Leung Chung-shan.
Three years ago, they ran second to Viva Pataca (Michael Kinane) in this very race with Best Gift, beaten three-quarters of a length.
Moore trained both Viva Pataca and Best Gift, and fourth-placed Super Kid (Glyn Schofield) as well.
However, Leung was a very unhappy owner after the race and removed Best Gift from the stable, transferring the gelding to Paul O'Sullivan.
Collection, chosen by Darren Beadman as his mount rather than Viva Pataca, was restrained back to last and ridden like a stayer.
The brilliant conqueror of Thumbs Up in the Derby quickened to within a neck of that gelding at the 200m yesterday but shortly after came to the end of his tether. While Thumbs Up sent on and pushed Viva Pataca to a neck, Collection weakened to third, another two lengths behind.
'The difference was the number of miles in their legs,' Beadman said to Moore as he unsaddled the son of champion Peintre Celebre.
'He ran up to win it but just didn't stay the trip on the day as well as the other two.'
The defeat for Collection has not swayed Moore from plans to run the four-year-old in Australia during the Melbourne spring carnival.
'We'll sit down and discuss this with the syndicate of owners, I feel the Cox Plate is where we should be heading,' Moore said.
'This horse has a terrific turn of foot and that's the kind of horse that wins Cox Plates - a high-class mile-and-a-quarter horse with an explosive turn of foot,' he added.
Honest Mr Medici, third in the Derby and a subsequent winner of the Queen Mother Memorial Cup (Gr 3), again underlined the classic form with a brave fourth, though some 41/2 lengths from the winner.
King of the turf
Having won the Champions & Chater Cup for the third time, Viva Pataca has now bagged this many Group One wins: 7