Forget his second-up flop, Kingdom out to rule again
Champion Sacred Kingdom can shrug off a sub-par lead-up performance to take out a third HK$14 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) and continue the vice-like local grip on the event.
Ricky Yiu Poon-fai has shed light on that last-start fifth in the Jockey Club Sprint, admitting he had been kinder than usual to Sacred Kingdom (Brett Prebble) on the training track after his booming return first-up under a big weight had taken more than expected from the seven-year-old.
And players who cast their mind back a year will realise a second-up defeat bore a distinct resemblance to Sacred Kingdom's second placing to Happy Zero in the same race last year.
Sacred Kingdom had been first-up for the season, swept to the lead but 'emptied out', in Prebble's words, even as he got there and was roundly thumped by the winner in the last 100m in what looked a disappointing run on face value. Three weeks later, he grabbed the Group One on international day with authority.
In this year's Jockey Club Sprint, there were similarities, with Sacred Kingdom coming off seven weeks without a race, coming to win at the 250m, then emptying out. Although the gelding has many fresh wins, it has become noticeable as he has aged his best performances have been after running beforehand in some proximity to those efforts. After last season's Hong Kong Sprint win, he had seven weeks until the Centenary Sprint Cup (1,000m), which he won but most unimpressively. Three weeks later, he was dominant in the Chairman's Sprint.
When he won first-up over 1,000m this term, Yiu had something to prove, even to find out for himself, with the gelding returning after a colic attack at Chek Lap Kok airport in March. A wound-up Sacred Kingdom was dominant. Now, coming back only three weeks after the Jockey Club Sprint, he is ready to be dominant again.
If he is to be beaten, it may mark a changing of the guard among local sprinters, with the likes of Lucky Nine, Let Me Fight and his greatest danger, Little Bridge (Zac Purton).
Unbeaten in his first five starts, Little Bridge has never taken a backward step and was tossed in to the Jockey Club Sprint for connections to decide on his immediate path - his close third ensured he would line up today. Like the other youngsters, he is going to make it in this grade but, unlike them, he has the draw to start doing it.