Star delivers tour de force
BREEDERS' Cup-winning French jockey Eric Legrix was as good as his word when Bumper Star completed a glorious six-timer in the important Hermes Cup at Sha Tin yesterday.
When trainer Patrick Biancone consulted his stable jockey on the quality of his rides yesterday morning, Legrix replied with an emphatic: 'Patron, believe me, we will win the Hermes Cup.' He wasn't wrong. Bumper Star, who started this season winning from a mark of 65 in Class Three but was yesterday competing from a rating 30 pounds and two Classes higher, stormed to the line to beat the admirable Dashing by three-quarters of a length.
Wind Dancer, returning to his first-up form, was a good third with a break back to Optic Empire who ran home well to claim fourth from Biancone's second string, King Prawn.
Legrix, who gave Bumper Star a copybook ride from barrier 13, getting as close to the inside as was humanely possible, explained: 'His last piece of serious work on Tuesday morning was just something else.
'You know he is a lazy horse in the mornings which is how I prefer my horses. If you work him with a Class Four horse, he works like a Class Four horse.
'If you work him with a Class Three horse, he works like a Class Three horse and if you work him with a Class One horse then he will show you he is a Class One horse.
'That is how he worked on Tuesday with King Prawn. He gave me a fantastic feel and I was really confident.' Asked during which part of the race he really started to believe the race was his for the taking, Legrix had no hesitation in replying: 'Before the race. I really thought he would win and I told Patrick that when we were talking about today's races this morning.' Bumper Star began well from his outside draw and Legrix skilfully manoeuvred him towards the inside.
It would be ridiculous to expect every horse to get to the fence in every race, and while Bumper Star sat three wide as Gold Yue Yee and Dashing set the pace, Legrix made the tactically astute move of getting cover as they swung off the apex of the home turn.
'I followed Gerald (Mosse) on Kadbridge and kept my horse covered until we hit the straight,' continued Legrix.
'Then I knew it was time to go. This is such a brave horse that I wasn't worried whether we would catch Dashing. I knew we would.' Bumper Star was giving Biancone his second Hermes Cup, having taken 1991-92 reversal with the Alan Li-owned Illico.
The Irish-bred subscription griffin - it is amazing what some owners pull out of the hat - was completing his fourth victory for the French camp, having been subject of an acrimonious stable change from Tony P. H. Chan for whom he won his last two starts of last season.
For Biancone it was win number 20 of a magnificent season which sees him six clear of defending champion Ivan Allan at the head of the standings.
Legrix, finally given the chance to shine in the saddle after a frustrating time last term when Biancone's horses were not firing, has booted home 15 winners.
Yesterday's triumph leaves him in outright second in the tussle for riding honours, just two off Basil Marcus who will miss the next two meetings due to commitments in Japan.
Legrix's prolific campaign underlines one particular racing maxim, a jockey cannot fire without the horse, no matter how talented.
Last season Legrix was just bereft of ammunition, but now he is riding with a confidence and a swagger that feeds on the very success he is enjoying.
The crying shame is that Bumper Star, who is likely to be raised another 10 pounds or so for yesterday's exertions, is not entered for any of next month's three showpiece events.
'He will be going to Beas River for a holiday instead,' said Biancone.
'He's earned it and we will bring him back later in the season and see what is on offer from 1,400 metres to a mile.' Biancone has already gone on record to stress how much he is opposed to the early closing date for the local contingent for the Bowl, Cup and Vase.
He has been joined in that by other leading handlers, including David Hill and Ivan Allan, in what is becoming a well-founded chorus of complaints.
'We should be more like the Japan Cup and take entries for the local runners, even all the runners, just a few weeks before race,' is Biancone's standpoint.
Hill went beyond this to make the logical point: 'Why even take entries from the local runners? It doesn't make any sense. It should purely be up to the handicappers to make their selections as all the horses are here anyway.
'If any owners don't want to run they can then let the handicappers know.' Meanwhile, there was a slight jolt to the Biancone production-line of winners when inexperience got the better of newcomer Hung Hing Tai in the eighth event.
The son of Marauding was backed down to 3-1 favourite, but missed the start before staying on for seventh to Pleasant Win. He will come on a lot for the race,' said Legrix.
Turf Apex held on bravely from Electric Power for third to land one punter a monstrous $19 million in a quinella bet.