Eagle can soar to the top: Prebble
Top jockey Brett Prebble went through the full spectrum of emotions with Eagle Regiment in the Members Cup yesterday - hopeful beforehand, worried at halfway, then full of praise and admiration at the finish.
'He's a tired horse with a lot of heart and courage and he's going to come back next season as a proper horse after a break,' said Prebble, who landed the day's Class Three feature on the Manfred Man Ka-leung-trained three-year-old at short odds, but says it was never as cut and dried as it might look in the results.
With the sizzling front-runner Dane Patrol (Terry Wong Chi-wai) flying the lids and setting up a very big lead, at least in the context of a 1,000m race, he had set the cat among the pigeons at the halfway mark.
'I was pretty scared - that leader had us all off the chewy at the 500m and that's how he has won his races before,' Prebble admitted. 'He gave me a fright and he made my horse really do it tough and carry his big weight today.
'Eagle Regiment made it look quite easy on the line but that was because Dane Patrol was out of chips and did stop very quickly once I got to him. He flattered us a bit at the end the way he was sitting down.'
Nevertheless, Dane Patrol did beat the rest of the field easily, with almost four lengths to Space Race, which speaks volumes for Eagle Regiment. The victory takes him out of Class Three and into next season with six starts for three wins and three seconds record over the straight 1,000m that augurs well for better races to come and especially once he moves to the circle racing, according to Prebble: 'You know, he really isn't a 1,000m horse. I think when he comes back, he'll be a really nice 1,200-1,400m horse. That's what he wants but the diet of 1,000m racing has been the making of him. It's given him a real education, so he drops his head and does everything he needs to do and when he needs to do it. But he was at the end today, he's had enough and wants a really good spell and then he'll be even better after it.'
Eagle Regiment was the second leg of a double for both Prebble - who won for David Hall on Empire City in race four - and trainer Manfred Man, who produced first-starter Aerosa (Douglas Whyte) in the fifth race.
While Eagle Regiment's report card was straight As from Prebble, Empire City was getting a qualified pass for his Oi Suen Handicap win in the middle of Class Four, even though it looked comfortable enough.
Prebble never looked to have any concerns in running, parking Empire City in fourth and trailing the cheap speed set by outsiders Asmodai, Caga Spirit and Sunny Sky.
Shaken up at the 300m, he strolled away and easily held the determined rather than dashing finish of Let's Goal (Weichong Marwing).
'He's been quite a dumb, slow learning horse and it has taken until now for the penny to drop,' Prebble said. 'He won OK at 1,600m today but I think he'll get further and it will probably be important for him that he does.
'I feel he'll run a good 1,800m and I could even see him in a 2,200m at Happy Valley at some stage and that's where he has room for improvement, because the ranks thin out quickly in the longer races. If 1,600m is as far as he ends up going, though, he could be in trouble with the handicap ratings much quicker.'
The percentage rising star Eagle Regiment has greeted the judge from six starts