Regiment has unfinished business in the desert
Manfred Man's sprinter returns after a year off to retain the Sprint Cup and land another shot at Dubai glory having missed the race last year
Perhaps the luxury conditions for visiting horses in Dubai last year played a role in Eagle Regiment being injured and unable to race, but jockey Olivier Doleuze was more than a little bit excited about going back for "some revenge" after the gelding returned from a year off the scene to win the Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup for a second time.
In a training triumph for Manfred Man Ka-leung, who also landed his 300th career winner, Eagle Regiment gave the handler his second Group One win and in arrogant style, taking the straight-course feature by the scruff of the neck when Doleuze pressed the button.
Rewind 12 months and Eagle Regiment's victory in the Centenary Sprint booked him a place in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan but, while he made it to Dubai, he never got as far as the race.
"The boxes for the horses in Dubai are quite luxurious and the mafoo they assigned us put a lot of bedding down in it," Man said yesterday. "I think this horse was enjoying himself so much rolling around in the thick bedding that he hit his hind leg on the wall. It wasn't really serious, but we just had to give him plenty of time to rest and heal. I was quite confident today, but one year off was the question."
Now Man and Doleuze are looking for a return trip to Dubai with the five-year-old, who has truly turned out to be a one-trick pony requiring a straight course, and the Centenary Sprint is the only Group One available here.
"I hope now he goes to Dubai and then to England for Royal Ascot - so what if he races only a few times a year, if he can win those kinds of races then that is enough anyway. Better that than try to make him something he is not," Doleuze said. "He is one of the best horses I have ever ridden, a machine, but when you ride him around a turn, it's like two completely different horses, there is no comparison. Even in trackwork."
Despite the long break, Man and Doleuze had given Eagle Regiment a solid preparation aimed at yesterday's race, including three barrier trials.
"Manfred and his staff have done a fantastic job with the horse, with three trials, he was spot on. Each trial, I've been increasing his progression and the last trial I pushed him a little bit to clean him out inside. It is not easy to come back after such a long time away but his last trial, he showed me he was there, and he was happy in his work, which is the most important thing," Doleuze said.
"Last year when he won, there had been some rain and the track was a little bit wet and so people think that he must like the wet, but he was not so impressive last year as today. I think on the firm track, they can't match his natural speed."
Eagle Regiment was displaced as favourite for the race late in betting as Lucky Nine was smashed down to 3.4, but the triple Group One winner did not show the dash needed after racing alongside Eagle Regiment much of the race and had to settle for fifth.
The eye-catching run in the race was the John Moore-trained Frederick Engels hurtling home from last to finish second and he, too, is headed for Dubai if he can gain an invitation to the Golden Shaheen.
"I'd have loved to win it, but I have to be happy with his performance and 1,200m on the Tapeta surface would really suit him," said Moore, who also finished fourth with Captain Sweet.
"He's entered for Dubai as well but I think he might be better suited going to the race in Singapore in May."