HK trio fail to rise to occasion in Tokyo sun
Any pre-race air of confidence simply faded away in the Tokyo sunshine yesterday with Hong Kong's Yasuda Kinen contenders failing to issue even a serious threat in the final leg of the Asian Mile Challenge.
Fellowship, Beauty Flash and Sight Winner represented a strong visiting team, with both Beauty Flash and Fellowship well respected in the betting market, but the tough task of beating the Japanese milers in their backyard was driven home.
John Size-trained Sight Winner (Craig Williams) was the outsider of the trio, but was the one to emerge most creditably, improving by one place on his sixth in 2009. He ran on from midfield to be only a length and a half from the winner, Showa Modern, after displaying surprisingly little early speed, while Fellowship (ninth) and Beauty Flash (11th) faded.
'He was further back than his usual pattern of racing, which surprised me. Craig said he asked him for his normal speed early in the race, but he didn't have it,' Size said. 'He was very relaxed today. He raced very kindly and generously and showed good character, fighting back very strongly in the run to the line.
'And he's come back missing the protective shoe on the frog that was sore earlier, so perhaps he would have been feeling that. It's disappointing not to win, but I can't be disappointed with his performance.'
The same sentiment was missing in the Beauty Flash camp. Showa Modern ran just 0.3 seconds outside the course record, with the track running quickly on the day, but neither Beauty Flash's trainer Tony Cruz nor jockey Felix Coetzee was offering any excuses.
'Felix said he got the position behind the pace that we wanted and the horse just wasn't good enough,' Cruz said. 'They've run very fast times, Beauty Flash and Fellowship finished beside each other just like the Champions Mile - maybe that form wasn't strong enough and they have run to their form. Beauty Flash was put in his place today.
'I was very happy with him going into the race and that was disappointing - maybe he just isn't up to that standard. We might have to think twice about going overseas with him again.'
Paul O'Sullivan's worst fears with temperamental Fellowship were realised, with jockey Zac Purton saying he knew he had 'no chance by the time he went into the starting gates'.
'We had a go and it didn't work out, but I was worried that the mental aspect of it all would count against him,' O'Sullivan said. 'They walk around for a long time before they race here and that was a real concern. He was normal in the paddock parade, but Zac said he went to pieces over behind the start.'
Purton travelled in midfield on the rails with Fellowship in running, but he said the gelding was never travelling.