Hong Kong-bound Apache Cat was hailed as the next Australian star of international racing by a gracious winner in Joe Janiak, trainer of the globetrotting fairytale racehorse Takeover Target. A start in the HK$12 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint on December 14 is now confirmed for Apache Cat.
Takeover Target, now a nine-year-old, was pitted against Apache Cat at Ascot racecourse in Perth on Saturday and the clash brought the course to a screaming frenzy as the two multiple Group One winners hit the line locked together, with a digital photo decision required to separate their bobbing heads by the smallest official margin, a nose.
The thrilling Group Two Winterbottom Stakes will be the launching pad for the international career of Apache Cat. And Janiak, who knows more about the global sprinting scene than most, has no doubt the Cat will make a success of it.
'You can't take anything away from Apache Cat, he really dug deep,' Janiak (pictured) said after the photo had been handed down. 'He will be the next international star for Australia, without doubt.'
Takeover Target boasts almost HK$28 million in prize money as he added Western Australia to his victory belt alongside the other Australian states of Victoria, NSW and Queensland, as well as England, Japan and Singapore.
Apache Cat turned in a welcome but predicted form reversal to almost run down the ageless international star and now flies to Hong Kong on Wednesday, where he will be the top-rated sprinter in the world's richest turf sprint - a race from which Takeover Target was sensationally scratched two years ago after a therapeutic steroid had failed to clear his system in time.
'I'm thrilled to bits with that run,' trainer Greg Eurell said. 'He was back to his best and his last 600 metres was fantastic. To almost run down Takeover Target is a big effort, and there is no shame getting beaten by him in a photo.
'Hong Kong is right back in the spotlight. He will fly home to Melbourne on Tuesday and fly out to Hong Kong on Wednesday. This race was a nice top up. There is not a lot of turnaround time between the time we get to Hong Kong and the race on December 14. But with that run under his belt we won't need to do much.' Takeover Target defeated Apache Cat by a nose in the time of 1:09.15 for the 1,200m, with the last 600m taking only 33.6 seconds.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong Vase candidate Douro Valley tuned up for his trip with an impressive gallop between races at Moonee Valley.
No time was available, but jockey Steve Arnold said Douro Valley, who worked in blinkers, was in good order after holding a half-neck advantage over stablemate Ballack at the end of the mile workout. 'It was good solid work to keep him ticking over. Obviously it's a bit of a gap between runs so it was good for him to get a nice galloping surface,' he told the Herald-Sun.