Bad starts cost HK contenders in Dubai
Hong Kong hearts were broken as the two sprinters carrying the Bauhinia flag were beaten by barriers, in more ways than one, at a drama-charged Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan last night.
Joy And Fun was left the sole Hong Kong-runner in the Al Quoz Sprint after the surprise late scratching of Eagle Regiment and missed the start as a result of what connections said was a change in the way the horse is handled in the starting gates.
The Derek Cruz-trained sprinter still ran a mighty third, as did Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine, who was forced to chase from the rear after jumping from the widest barrier in the Golden Shaheen.
Joy And Fun's jockey Brett Doyle said the honest eight-year-old was leaning on the back of the gates, which caused him to be slow away.
'They didn't really hold his tail like they do in Hong Kong, he sat back on the gates and missed the start,' he said.
'I'd have been second otherwise, if it was 1,200m he would have won it. I thought he had every chance though.'
Doyle switched to the inside rail and Joy And Fun hit the front for the briefest of moments in the second half of the race, but was swooped on by the fast-finishing Australian mare Ortensia with former Hong Kong-based hoop Craig Williams aboard.
Cruz was shattered after the race, but full of admiration for his beloved veteran.
'It was a bit heart-breaking. He ran very well and was very game,' he said 'It was a little on the short side. If they had held his tail and he had jumped properly, he could have been right there.
'But he pulled up well and continues to race huge races.'
Eagle Regiment had battled lameness issues in the week leading up to the race, but reportedly trotted and cantered soundly on race morning, but failed a late veterinary check.
Winning jockey Williams deflected questions about a possible trip to Ascot with Ortensia, but floated a return to December's Hong Kong Sprint, a race she ran a credible fifth in two years ago.
'She wasn't really good enough for Hong Kong last time, but she has obviously improved and hopefully she might be back again this year,' he said.
Lucky Nine jumped from gate 12 in the 1,200m Golden Shaheen, and jockey Brett Prebble got cover, but couldn't run down Krypton Factor, who beat Singaporean champion Rocket Man, the top two racing on the speed.
'The barrier has cost him big time,' Fownes said. 'He didn't have a chance to jump and get into an ideal position. In saying that, first time going anti-clockwise and first time at night, it has been a pretty good effort. He is all heart, he tries so hard and has a lot more to come.'
Prebble felt the five-year-old didn't handle the soft Tapeta surface.
'He gave me an awesome kick, but it was hard for him to maintain his running in that going, it seemed very claggy,' he said.
Earlier in the night, the massive crowd was stunned into silence when Fox Hunt broke down badly in front of the main grandstand and caused the inaugural Dubai Gold Cup to be abandoned mid-race, to be rescheduled until later in the evening.
The Godolphin-owned stayer broke a fore leg and sent Silvestre De Souza crashing to the turf about 300m into the 3,200m event, half way up the Meydan straight. The jockey walked away unharmed, but the horse had to be destroyed.
Godolphin's African Story delivered Frankie Dettori his seventh Godolphin Mile, the five-year-old bolted in by four lengths.