Make that a double: HK rules in Singapore
Lucky Nine defends Sprint title in commanding fashion, while Dan Excel cruises to Cup victory, with Military Attack filling third position
A special evening in Singapore delivered both international features to Hong Kong-trained horses for the second straight year as wholehearted performers Dan Excel and Lucky Nine dismantled their opposition at Kranji.
John Moore's Dan Excel went one better than his runner-up effort of 12 months ago in the Singapore Airlines International Cup, breaking the track record, a race after Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine made it back-to-back wins in the KrisFlyer International Sprint.
Both Dan Excel and Lucky Nine have been known throughout their careers for tremendous fighting qualities rather than absolute brilliance, but last night at Kranji they spaced their respective fields with emphatic winning margins that only class horses can produce in international group one contests.
The dual success continued a prolific year of the horse for Hong Kong horses, after two Group One wins at the recent Dubai World Cup meeting.
"It just shows once again that Hong Kong has got some of the best horseflesh on the planet and we can compete with anyone on the world stage," said Moore. "Dan Excel is a warhorse - I thought he would be getting dizzy from the races I have entered him in, over 2,000m, and back to 1,400m, and back up again. He is the most genuine horse I have got and maybe the most genuine in Hong Kong, he always competes at the top level and he always gives his all."
The application of side winkers for the first time proved pivotal for Dan Excel, as did barrier one, as Tommy Berry bounced the six-year-old into the box seat and pulled away in the straight for a one and three quarter length win, stablemate and last year's winner Military Attack finishing third after jumping from barrier 10. Smoking Sun was second, with Hong kong Cup runner-up Tokei Halo fourth.
Dan Excel's victory was especially emotional for Berry, whose twin brother Nathan passed away just under two months ago after falling ill with Norse Syndrome in Singapore. "This was the last place Nathan rode so it was a very special win," Berry said. "Everything seems to be falling into place for me since his passing and it just shows me that he is still riding with me."
A race earlier Lucky Nine captured his seventh career Group One success and gave trainer Caspar Fownes and jockey Brett Prebble three KrisFlyer wins each.
Fownes had been hospitalised during the week with high blood pressure but was trackside to cheer Lucky Nine home.
"He is all heart this horse," said an emotional Fownes. "It's really exciting, to get a horse like him to do that, it's a very touching moment for me. It is very gratifying for the stable, he has actually destroyed them today, he has won really easily."
Lucky Nine's success was also helped by a low draw and box seat run, but there was no disputing his dominance as he scored by two and a half lengths.
"He was the best horse in the race," Prebble said. "I knew what I had underneath me and it was a great performance."
Zac Purton had won a race on the undercard but had to settle for second on Emperor Max in the KrisFlyer, with local fancy Zac Spirit third.
Joao Moreira made a triumphant return to his former stomping ground early on the card when he won the opening race to the delight of the crowd, one of five wins for Hong Kong-based riders on the 11-race card, but he could do little for the two beaten Moore runners, Military Attack and Sterling City.
The Brazilian positioned both in one-off positions from gate 10, Sterling City disappointing in fifth.