Rocket man flies past rivals again
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 (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 our competitors, dead-heating for third in the Singapore Airlines International Cup (2,000m) behind the South African-trained winner Gitano Hernando, who 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 SAI Cup, just reward after he missed his ride on the expensive blueblood in the Hong Kong Queen Elizabeth II Cup last month after breaking his collarbone in a fall in the days before that race.
Collarbone mended, Schofield cracked the big time in his first time riding at Kranji racecourse, winning the feature race by a half length from River Jetez, with a length to Irian and Waikato, who dead-heated for third.
The Tony Cruz-trained favourite, California Memory, tired to finish eighth after surprisingly moving to an early lead under jockey Matthew Chadwick.
The star of the show was the Patrick Shaw-trained Rocket Man, who routinely batters his domestic opposition, and did so again last night, with the first five past the post all Singaporean-trained.
Last year's winner, Green Birdie, sprinted gamely from down the centre of the track, but never threatened to catch Rocket Man and finished seventh, while 2009 KrisFlyer 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 world racing 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 being 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. 'He was just terrific tonight, he delivered on everything he has promised.'
Rocket Man danced for the cheering crowd in the parade ring before the race, and even the rain gods held off a passing shower, as the world waited for the short-priced $1.20 favourite to deliver.
'He was really quiet, and at the start, it was an eerie feeling because we couldn't hear anything from the grandstand, I thought something must have gone wrong,' Coetzee said.
'He got a terrific jump, he was very focused and showed his natural speed, and I was just the lucky passenger, these champions, they always help you out.'