Hong Kong Sprint winner Lucky Nine withstood Glorious Days and then a protest to grab his second major of the season in the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup yesterday and now heads to Dubai, where trainer Caspar Fownes may have an influential supporter in his corner.
Lucky Nine was bred by Darley Stud, meaning the five-year-old was technically bred by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, and will give the ruler of Dubai a second powerful string to his bow when he lines up against Australian star Sepoy - owned by Darley - in the US$2 million Golden Shaheen on March 30.
Lucky Nine (Brett Prebble) had the run of the race from gate one and plenty left in the tank when he was challenged by Glorious Days (Douglas Whyte) at the 250m and they paired off for a battle that saw Lucky Nine first home by a head but Whyte signalled a protest after the duo had brushed twice.
'He's a real fighter Lucky Nine but that's what he does - he goes either way. If something comes on his inside, he'll roll in next to them and make it a fight, and if one comes up on his outside, like today, he will roll out and make a fight of it,' said Prebble, who celebrated his quickfire return from a broken collarbone three weeks ago.
'But he is very tough and he won't get beaten many times in a photo. I wasn't worried about the protest - Glorious Days surprised me with how quick he made up the ground from the 400m to the 250m, but it's hard to sustain. I think that took its toll and he had his chance to go past me and couldn't.'
Flu-ridden Fownes said Lucky Nine had received his inoculations for Dubai and that was his likely path.
'We'll see how he is but that looks the way to go,' he said. 'He'll have to drop back 200m and adapt to the Tapeta but I think it will suit him. I still believe he's one of the best milers here but we'll wait until later in the season for that.'
Prebble surprised by saying Lucky Nine is not at the top of his game, despite a third Group One win, adding the Tapeta surface at Meydan might see him improve.
'Caspar's doing a great job maintaining his form as best he can, but he has foot issues and I don't think you're seeing him at his top,' the jockey said. 'To me, he feels two lengths below off how he felt when he was really flying. But that surface in Dubai is very forgiving and might be what he needs.'
Trainer John Size attempted to hide his disappointment with only minimal success after Glorious Days' first racecourse defeat, but naturally took away from it the gelding's great performance.
'He had to go one horse further back than we would have liked when Destined For Glory pushed up early under him, and he got pushed off the track as he made his run on the circle and he still made up four five lengths very quickly to get to Lucky Nine,' Size said.
'But getting to him is one thing and getting past him was another and my horse is probably not experienced enough to be able to have done all that and still got past. But he's run terrific and he'll step up to a mile now in the Chairman's Trophy.'
Whyte also had only good things to say about the four-year-old's first foray into Group One, saying that Lucky Nine's shift had intimidated Glorious Days.
'I ran to him and Lucky Nine came out and, being the young horse in the big time for the first time, a thing like that put Glorious Days slightly off his game and it was difficult to go by Lucky Nine then,' Whyte said. 'But give him his due, Lucky Nine is a good horse and really knows how to fight. Glorious Days is still raw and inexperienced and he's only going to get better with time.'