Hong Kong stars make their mark on big stage
Hong Kong racing's stocks have risen so sharply in recent years that winning four of the six international Group Ones in a season at Sha Tin now seems standard. But away from home, it may take a long time before May 19, 2013, in Singapore is surpassed as the greatest single day in terms of on-track achievement.
The John Moore-trained Military Attack and Dan Excel backed up from wins in the two invitational spring features at Sha Tin to quinella the SIA International Cup, adding a long-sought-after foreign Group One to Moore's resume. And that came after Caspar Fownes' daring paid off and Lucky Nine captured a richly deserved overseas Group One in the KrisFlyer Sprint.
Military Attack's victory broke a winless streak in overseas Group Ones for Moore that stretched back to the 1990s. Lucky Nine's win came after five previous tries away, littered with rotten luck, and this one with many questioning Fownes' sanity after two trouble-filled runs at home.
Also exceeding expectations were Joy And Fun and Eagle Regiment in the Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night, finishing second and third behind Shea Shea, despite unconvincing preparations.
It was meant to be a swansong for the nine-year-old Joy And Fun, but the bold effort had trainer Derek Cruz re-assessing retirement plans, while Eagle Regiment never looked like getting to the starting gates, battling lameness all week.
The horse that left for the desert with the highest expectations, Moore's Frederick Engels, came back battered and bruised after missing the start in the Golden Shaheen.
Somewhat surprisingly, there were no Royal Ascot raids after Little Bridge's King's Stand Stakes triumph in 2012, Moore failing to convince Time After Time's owners that a trip to England was worthwhile.
Japan continues to be a minefield for visitors - Lucky Nine and Little Bridge failed to make an impact in the Sprinters Stakes, while Glorious Days and Helene Spirit were outclassed in the Yasuda Kinen. Fownes will head to Melbourne to campaign Lucky Nine early next term, ending a two-year absence from the Melbourne Spring Carnival for Hong Kong horses.