Champions Mile

Heroes at home but (mostly) zeroes overseas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2012, 12:00am


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Hong Kong was dominant on home turf with a near clean sweep at Sha Tin's international showpiece and triumphant in what was proclaimed as the strongest ever Champions Mile, but underwhelming away from home with only Little Bridge's Royal Ascot victory to show from a record number of travellers.

The Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races turned into a celebration for the locals, with wins in the three shortest events and a half-length second, the closest a local horse has come to winning, in the Vase in 13 years.

The Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine capped a Hong Kong top four as they reclaimed the Sprint, Able One stole the Mile and California Memory was a popular winner of the Cup. Thumbs Up was runner-up in the Vase to Melbourne Cup hero Dunaden, who maintained the European dominance of the distance race.

Throughout the season, it seemed Hong Kong's jet-setters were jinxed. Lucky Nine was a tragedy beaten in the Centaur Stakes in Japan, before copping terrible interference in the Sprinters Stakes, and stablemate Green Birdie was relegated from fourth to eighth in the Centaur.

Melbourne's Spring Carnival turned into a costly exercise for David Ferraris and John Moore. Ferraris had his trip ruined the moment Bear Hero jumped and tore off half his foot in the Coolmore Stakes, while Moore's Mighty High and Silver Grecian started their campaign well before fading with each run. Moore will be back in his homeland this year, but expect a hit-and-run approach to the Cox Plate with Xtension.

Ambitious Dragon may have been named Horse of the Year, but he failed to fire on the biggest days, beaten as either top pick or second favourite in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup, Dubai Duty Free, BMW Champions Mile and Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup.

Ambitious Dragon's flat performance on World Cup night was the low point of what was expected to be a defining moment for Hong Kong, with a six-horse team declared as its strongest hand at an overseas meeting, but delivering disappointment. Only sprinters Lucky Nine and Joy And Fun could salvage pride with brave placings in their respective events at Meydan.

Xtension bounced back from the Dubai debacle by snatching back-to-back Champions Miles, while the Japanese made a stunning return when Rulership dismantled a modest Audemars Piguet QE II Cup field.

Lucky Nine and Glorious Days added to the travel woes when they were dismal flops in the Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo, although both could be forgiven at the end of a tough season.

Hong Kong horses had 27 runs overseas, surpassing last season's previous all-time high, and it was down to Little Bridge and Joy And Fun to fly the Bauhinia flag in last month's King's Stand Stakes.

Little Bridge's international scalp was a career highlight for jockey Zac Purton and Danny Shum Chap-shing, who became the first Chinese trainer to win at the iconic carnival.