Bridge ready to ascend to Kingdom's throne
Sacred Kingdom's departure from the stage might also have served as the passing of the baton yesterday Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Little Bridge returned to his brilliant best in the Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy in the style of the superstar he had promised to become once before.
Little Bridge had looked ready to take the mantle from Sacred Kingdom earlier in the season but lost his way after winning the Jockey Club Sprint and finishing fourth in the Hong Kong Sprint.
The five-year-old was beaten without excuse in the Centenary Sprint Cup and Chairman's Sprint Prize and Shum was at a loss to explain.
'After his first few starts this season, I couldn't feel anything different in his trackwork but in his races, he was just not the same horse.
'Zac Purton suggested we try blinkers last time and that didn't help him so they came off again today,' said Shum. 'But after two months away from racing, he was back to form anyway.'
Little Bridge (Purton) had won in his first four attempts at the straight 1,000m course when rising through his grades early, but had been sparingly tried at the trip more recently.
Yesterday, he jumped quickly, claimed a share of the lead early and never looked like losing once he went clear, drawing a clear margin on Captain Sweet and New Vision over the final stages and running brilliant time.
'I think he was just tired after his campaign to get to International day in December, that's why his last couple haven't been his best. Danny has freshened him up and he bounced back today. He's always been very good fresh in any case,' said Purton, who has seven wins and three placings from his 13 rides on the five-year-old.
'And I think he is still improving within himself. He'll be tougher again next season and that is when he'll be at his peak.'
Shum said the programming had helped him out with Little Bridge, as there had not been a suitable race for him since his last outing in February.
'Since we decided to keep Little Bridge to short races, this was the only option available since the start of February, and it worked out perfectly,' he smiled.
The gelding will go to the Group Two Sprint Cup (1,200m) on April 29 for his next appearance.
The Bauhinia Sprint was an action-packed affair from the start, with Sacred Kingdom bombing the start and his rider Gerald Mosse hitting his head on the starting stalls, and more followed.
Matthew Chadwick was suspended for the sixth time this season for careless riding after letting heavily-backed California Choice drift across the track towards the outside rail and collecting Horse Galore and Let Me Fight on the way.
He received a three-day suspension and a HK$40,000 fine. Stewards also reported that Let Me Fight suffered a bleeding attack during the race.