Simply magic as Hong Kong lands 1-2 blow in Singapore
Hong Kong's trainers, jockeys and owners enjoy their greatest Group One moment on foreign soil as they score big on Singapore Cup night
Lucky Nine's thrashing of the KrisFlyer Sprint field set the bar high for John Moore's bid for the Singapore Airlines International Cup, but he answered in stunning style with a Military Attack-Dan Excel quinella to finally get the monkey off his back.
"I'm ecstatic. Finally did it and did it in emphatic style," said a jubilant Moore after collecting his first foreign Group One race with Military Attack, after 17 years of trying, and crowned Hong Kong's greatest Group One moment on foreign soil, claiming both the Group Ones at Kranji.
"This horse started to come back about four runs ago and I thought he was the real deal, and this confirms it," Moore added.
"To finally win my Group One overseas, and to do it here. I've always loved Singapore, going back to when I rode here in the 1970s, so this is just fantastic. The gelding [operation] made a big difference to this horse and getting Zac Purton on him has made an even bigger difference. "I'd love to take this horse to the Cox Plate - the way he exploded away, that was incredible. His 2,000m wins at home have been with his turn of foot proving superior off slower tempos, but if anyone was in any doubt about him off a good pace, well he put that to rest tonight."
Fifty minutes earlier, Brett Prebble and the Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine spent less than 69 seconds putting three lengths between themselves and Australia's Bel Sprinter in the shorter Group One contest that was a breakthrough for the horse after five "away" attempts.
It seemed that everything else could be only an anti-climax for Hong Kong, but the KrisFlyer ultimately proved to be the appetiser.
In one of the most brilliant middle-distance performances of the year on turf, Purton said it for everyone after steering Military Attack faultlessly to win by even further than Lucky Nine and smashing two minutes off the Kranji 2,000m.
"Wow! I came here thinking I was a winning chance, but to do that, to the best field they've ever had in this race - phenomenal. It's scary to think how much Military Attack has improved in the last few months," Purton said.
"Historically, this isn't a fast-run race but it was different tonight and I worried in the run that might be his undoing when they were going that galloper, I thought it might drag it out of him a bit. But I was able to save all the ground and his turn of foot was outstanding. He put a gap in them and I couldn't believe how far in front I was - I started idling him down," said the jockey after a 31/4-length romp to beat his stablemate Dan Excel, who was brave, but outclassed.
Both Prebble and Fownes had won the KrisFlyer previously, but separately, and Prebble said it was an extra thrill to win it with Fownes, who has been such a big part of his Hong Kong career.
"I won here on Sacred Kingdom and then I knocked back the ride on Green Birdie, which won for Caspar. That was the year I was in a battle with Douglas Whyte for the championship in Hong Kong, so I gave up the ride here on Green Birdie," Prebble said.
The jockey rode a copybook race to surge out of the starting stalls then steadied to the box seat position that has so often won the KrisFlyer. "Then I was hedging my bets turning into the straight - I wasn't sure how Mr Big was going or whether he'd take me further into the straight," Prebble said.
"But I decided to come out rather than have horses around Lucky Nine, which he doesn't really like, but when I pressed the button I probably did it too soon.
"He hasn't been there lately when I've gone for him, so I cracked him a bit early, but he was there tonight - he really let down and I couldn't wait to get across the line.
"He deserved a Group One overseas, that's his ability. Japan has been upsetting for us, he could have won twice there with better luck, but everything went right tonight."
Fownes said nothing was off the table for the six-year-old, a seasoned veteran now of six races on foreign soil. "Nothing is on or off right now - I'll talk to the owner about what happens, but we'll think about Royal Ascot, … Australia - I'd love to go there - and, of course, Japan is gnawing away at me. We should have won one there and I feel there's something to prove," he said.