End of era as Kingdom is put out to pasture
A special streak of greats passed into history in April with the retirement of three-time world champion sprinter Sacred Kingdom, who received a lifetime achievement gong at season's end, along with Able One. Sacred Kingdom had never finished worse than sixth but, when three of his five runs saw a double-figure finish, it was slow-burning agony as connections chased in vain for one more win to equal Silent Witness' tally of 18.
Only when it was looking desperate did the decision come, and the eight-year-old went out with a whimper and plenty of sympathy, failing in the Bauhinia Sprint, and headed for a green paddock in Australia.
After the best part of a golden decade with Silent Witness, Bullish Luck, Absolute Champion, Vengeance Of Rain, Viva Pataca and Good Ba Ba, the final world champion departed. He'd simply 'had enough', according to trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai.
Sacred Kingdom won HK$45.8 million in prize money for owner Sin Kang-yuk, including a second Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint, a KrisFlyer in Singapore and four domestic Group Ones, sat atop the world classifications for three years and was Horse of the Year in 2009-10.
This was all despite long lay-offs: A fractured sesamoid that ruled out a trip to Japan in September 2009, and the more sensational colic that laid him low in March 2010 as Sacred Kingdom prepared to board a flight to Japan - a trip that might have killed him had he begun it.
Time isn't kind and Sacred Kingdom's final campaign was forgettable, but he was genuinely world class at his best, emerging so soon after Silent Witness that he might have been poorly seen for his proximity to such a bright star He held his own with that legend and carved one of his own.
Able One never headed lists of the world's milers. He never quite invaded that zone occupied by champions, but when fit and on song he took some beating. The most admired aspect of Able One's 44 starts for 10 wins, HK$37.75 million in stakes and three Group One wins - all internationals - was that he continually defied injury and could never be ignored.
He burst onto the A-grade scene surprising a Champions Mile field at 32-1 as a four-year-old and wound up doing the same in a Hong Kong Mile at 65-1 at nine.
The prize money Sacred Kingdom won for his owner