Rocket Man puts Hong Kong rivals in the shade

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 May, 2011, 12:00am


Hong Kong's ageing sprint stars Sacred Kingdom and Green Birdie showed just how far they have receded from their peak as Rocket Man, a new world power in the sprinting ranks, emerged at Kranji racecourse in Singapore last night.

Rocket Man and jockey Felix Coetzee decimated the Group One KrisFlyer International Sprint (1,200m), cruising to a massive 43/4-length victory in front of an elated home crowd.

The John Moore-trained Irian fared best of the Hong Kong competitors, dead-heating for third in the Singapore Airlines International Cup (2,000m) behind the South African-trained winner Gitano Hernando, which is owned by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

South African jockey Glyn Schofield united with countryman trainer Herman Brown on the winner of the S$3 million (HK$18.8 million) SAI Cup, just reward after he missed his ride on the expensive blueblood in the Hong Kong Queen Elizabeth II Cup on May 1, after breaking his collarbone in a race fall days before the Sha Tin showpiece.

Collarbone mended, Schofield cracked the big time in his first time riding at Kranji racecourse, winning the feature by a half length from River Jetez, with a length to Irian and Waikato.

The Tony Cruz-trained favourite, California Memory, tired to finish eighth after surprisingly moving to an early lead under jockey Matthew Chadwick, who was unable to restrain the grey and elected to move to the lead on the usual back-marker.

The star of the show, however, was the Patrick Shaw-trained Rocket Man, who routinely panels his domestic opposition and did so again last night with the first five past the post all Singaporean-trained.

Last year's KrisFlyer winner, Green Birdie, sprinted gamely from down the centre, but never threatened to catch Rocket Man and finished seventh, while 2009 winner and former world champion Sacred Kingdom battled on to hold sixth.

'To everyone who has supported us throughout Rocket Man's career, thank you, we love you all,' an emotional owner Frank Crabbia said in the mayhem after the win.

'We thought his victory in Dubai was amazing, but this is simply unbelievable to finally win this race at home.'

The Singaporean's win will have some screaming for a match-race between Rocket Man and the world's top-rated Australian sprinter, Black Caviar - a possible venue being the Group One Hong Kong Sprint in December.

The third time was the charm for Rocket Man in the KrisFlyer after he was shaded by Sacred Kingdom in 2009 and toppled by Green Birdie in a rain-soaked 2010 edition. 'If any horse ever deserved to win a particular race, it was Rocket Man in the KrisFlyer,' trainer Shaw said.

The wash-up for the Hong Kong runners was not so rosy.

Moore will discuss a possible spring campaign in Australia with Irian's owner Siu Pak-kwan, his likely targets the Caulfield Cup and possibly Melbourne Cup.

Tension was obvious following Chadwick's decision to slide to the front of the Cup field, and Cruz was as perplexed as the punters who made the horse favourite.

Sacred Kingdom's future looks bleakest of all. The once unbeatable sprinting world champion is seemingly feeling his age and never looked comfortable chasing the more sprightly Rocket Man yesterday.

Green Birdie ran on solidly from the tail, but again didn't threaten to win, and how long Fownes persists with venturing onto the world stage with his gelding is debatable.