Deserving sprint stars Rocket Man and One World on another planet
Singapore champion Rocket Man was overdue an international victory and One World was overdue a win of any kind, and the top sprinters both satisfied expectations with a spine-tingling dead-heat upset result to yesterday's Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint.
The script went out the window for the dress rehearsal to the Hong Kong Sprint on December 12 as Sacred Kingdom failed to turn up in his world champion costume, while Rocket Man (Felix Coetzee) and One World (Darren Beadman) revisited their clash in the Dubai desert last March.
Rocket Man was an unlucky second and One World third in the Golden Shaheen behind American sprinter Kinsale King - a likely rival at Sha Tin next month - and they converged on that form this time to post only the second dead-heat in Hong Kong Group racing history, but the shared result offered both sides hope of a Group One glory to come.
'The way he felt in his work, I would have been very surprised for him to not run well, but I was concerned about racing right-handed for the first time and Rocket Man was very green going into the turn and on the turn itself,' said Coetzee. 'He took a while to get going when we straightened up, but he really turned it on in the last 200m. Now that this one is over, the positive is that his trackcraft should be better next time.'
Trainer Patrick Shaw said Rocket Man had nothing left to come in terms of fitness, but highlighted yesterday's experience as the one area he could gain something. 'Coming here, we were worried about racing this way around and we knew the race was no walkover. As for his fitness, he's already right there and my job is to keep him ticking over at the same level.'
John Moore, who saddled both runners in the Group One Champions & Chater Cup dead-heat 15 years ago, said One World's trip to Dubai had left a lasting impact on the six-year-old and he had only begun to emerge from it now.
'It took him a long time to re-acclimatise, his chemistry was just out of sync,' he said. 'But in the last week and a half, Darren said he's been more like his old self. He blew up over the loins today, too, so he will be a little bit fitter for the international.'
Runner-up to Sacred Kingdom in the Hong Kong Sprint last year, One World had not won since January 2009, but has contested 15 Group races and failed to earn prize money in only two.
'His owner has been patiently waiting for another win - One World deserved a big one and we'll take a half,' Moore said. 'He's been long overdue for it, but he's so often had bad draws that have left him with too much to do. He must be competitive in the big one next month, but I do feel we need to draw a gate like he had today.'
With Moore's Dim Sum scooting along in the lead - he eventually ran a blinder to hold on for fourth - the pace was solid and should have suited Sacred Kingdom but he loomed to win, then didn't kill off his rivals.
Sacred Kingdom was beaten less than a length, but trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai was clearly expecting more. 'He ran well but it obviously wasn't his best run. I hope he can improve for the Hong Kong Sprint.'
Unbeaten Little Bridge was mastered for the first time in six starts but was brave in third, and excited trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing said he would press on to the international feature. 'It is not up to me to decide the invitations but if Little Bridge is invited, he will run.'