South African trainer Tony Millard crowned one of the highlight afternoons of his career at Sha Tin with a Group Three Hong Kong Macau Trophy win for pint-sized, unassuming bargain buy, Super Lifeline.
A win by the warm favourite for the day's feature was well anticipated but what was not foreseen was the victory coming as Millard's fourth success for the day after Medic Kingdom (Karis Teetan), Penny Lane (Vincent Ho Chak-yiu) and Ambitious Champion (Gerald Mosse) had torn the middle out of the card in one glorious hour for the yard.
"I've had trebles before but I do think it's the first time I've had four in Hong Kong," said a delighted Millard after claiming the interport trophy to take Super Lifeline's career record to six wins from nine outings, all the wins coming at the Sha Tin 1,400m.
Super Lifeline stunned racing fans last season on debut when he produced a big win at odds of 170-1 and has just continued to produce the goods ever since.
"He's such an unassuming horse. He's quite amazing," Millard said. "He shows you absolutely nothing in the mornings at trackwork but he's just a racehorse. He's only just 1,000 pounds, so there's nothing of him, but he's the proof that every bad stallion gets one decent one and for Churchill Downs, he's it. I'm just happy I ended up with him."
Churchill Downs now stands in Libya, and Millard said Super Lifeline had been a bargain buy as a yearling due to his size and breeding.
"I think he was A$26,000 (HK$180,000) at the sale in Melbourne, so he was very cheap and he's really done the job," the trainer recalled. "And I'm very pleased that he's done it for Eddy [Fong Ching]. Eddy was one of my first owners when I arrived here and I've had a few for him now that have won races and he has stuck with me."
As expected, the Macau runners took up the roles at the front end of the interport race, but Karis Teetan was never far off the lead.
Super Lifeline kicked strongly in the straight to comfortably hold runner-up Winning Leader and to likely take his rating up to triple figures - more than enough to ascend to a Derby start if connections were of a mind to go there but Millard said he felt that 2,000m would be too far for the gelding and Teetan agreed.
"If you did go to the Derby, I think it would be the wrong choice," the rider said, then explained that he hadn't wanted to be as close as he was in running. "I thought they were actually going to go faster in front, and I was too handy - I expected I would sit four or five lengths behind.
"But today is the right way to ride him, just let him travel comfortably, he takes four or five strides to pick up so I got going early and he always finds again in the last 200m. I actually think a mile will be his best trip."
The finish result of the Hong Kong Macau Trophy followed a familiar pattern, with the locals dominant and the first Macau horse over the line the early leader, eighth-placed Wonder Mossman.
It was Teetan's first win in the race and part of a three-win haul for the afternoon, but Millard had won it previously with Douglas Whyte-ridden Sparkling Power three years ago.