Boys in Blue give rivals a Mastery lesson in Vase
In a moment of Frankie Dettori mastery, the HK$14 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase was over in a twinkling at the 500m and heading to Dubai for the Boys In Blue for the first time. With a move reminiscient of his ride in the same race on runner-up Ekraar in 2001, Dettori took the race by the scruff of the neck after a modest tempo, but, while Ekraar was run down on the post, there was nothing with the firepower of the 2009 English St Leger winner yesterday and Mastery cleared out.
Dettori and Mastery put the final 400m of the Vase behind in a scorching 22.87 seconds, leaving nothing, not even prayers for the chasers as he opened up a commanding margin.
Speculation from track watchers during the week that something was amiss with Mastery, who has a slightly unusual walking gait, was never a concern to his trainer.
'No, he's always been like that since he was born. It's just how he walks,' said Saeed bin Suroor, who reminded all and sundry that Mastery had that touch of class that put the St Leger on his curriculum vitae in the first place.
'After he ran fifth in the World Cup in Dubai, he did need a break and that meant we had to find a target late in the season. Hong Kong looked ideal and his two runs in England showed he was coming into form.'
Mastery's victory gave Godolphin its 200th winner around the world for the calendar year and Dettori passed a century of Group One wins for the operation, taking that to 101.
'This was our last runner for the year so we needed this one to reach 200 wins globally so that's very satisfying,' said Dettori, who said Bin Suroor had filled him with confidence pre-race. 'Saeed told me the horse has been flying these past couple of days. He's been very pleased with him.'
But the story of the race was Dettori's ride, overcoming a slow break to have Mastery in the ideal box-seat spot, while his main rivals were giving away starts in a tempo that simply didn't allow it, then showing no mercy on the home turn to drive the point home.
'Mastery has been slowly away his last couple of starts and he didn't jump very well again, but from the inside gate I was able to go through behind the leader,' he said. 'The pace slowed up from the 1,000m to the beginning of the straight so then I chose to come out. I thought I can outsprint anybody now - it would have taken a very good horse to beat me. A lot of class.
'For a four-year-old he has had very little racing, so he'll have fresh legs for a five-year-old campaign with a big target in mind. The one that comes to mind is the Sheema Classic on World Cup night, but there are also races like this one and others around the world.'
It was Dettori's second Vase after Luso's 1996 win, and a fifth international victory at Sha Tin for the charismatic rider.
Americain's unbeaten run for Alain de Royer-Dupre finally came to an end, with the soft tempo and drop back to 2,400m from his Melbourne Cup win proving too much.
'The pace of the race was too slow for him especially at the last bend,' said Royer-Dupre. 'It's impossible to catch these faster runners under such conditions. I'm confident he will eventually succeed over 2,400m and, with a faster pace, perhaps the Japan Cup could be a race for him next year.'
The last word
'He was travelling so well coming into the straight. When I eased him out I knew he was going so well that he would outsprint all of them.'
Mastery, jockey Frankie Dettori
't was a really lovely run. Couldn't believe how well I was going the whole way. Don't worry, my bloke quickened at the end but the winner was just too good. He ran a super race.'
Redwood, jockey Michael Hills
'The pace was way too slow for him. I could not get him to start faster than he did and then they stopped. I pushed him early on to avoid being outpaced but he does not have the turn of foot to catch these horses.'
Americain, jockey Gerald Mosse
'The pace was against him but he ran very well. Fantastic effort to recover from a tough run in the Japan Cup and back up here.'
Jaguar Mail, jockey Craig Williams
'The pace was slow but he ran on well. A faster pace and he would have been closer.'
Jakkalberry, jockey of Christophe Lemaire
'Good effort stepping up to this grade.'
King Dancer, jockey Douglas Whyte