Trainer John Moore had thought it impossible for Dominant to win the Group One Longines Hong Kong Vase given the limited preparation he had compared to his more favoured European rivals, and believed his best hopes of success were in the other three international day events. But a superb ride from Zac Purton and some unlucky breaks for two fancied visitors delivered a rare victory for the home team in a race that has been dominated by overseas raiders in recent times.
Dominant's win gave Moore a full set of international day trophies to go with victories in the Sprint, Mile and Cup, on a day where his other fancied runners didn't bring home the expected spoils.
"I am seriously surprised at that result," Moore said. "It's very difficult to prepare a horse for this race in a jurisdiction that doesn't cater for those mile-and-a-half or even mile-and-a-quarter races. We only have a couple of them. So I thought getting the mileage into the legs of a horse like Dominant was an impossibility."
Dominant's swooping ¾-length win was the first in the 2,400m race by a local horse since Indigenous triumphed 15 years ago, but it took Purton's poise and race sense to get the victory, as race favourite The Fugue was left floundering in traffic along with third-placed Dunaden.
Even after the disadvantage of a two-run preparation that included an unimpressive 12th and eighth over 1,600m and 2,000m, Dominant then drew widest from where Purton was instructed to go back to last.
The rearward position in the race may have turned into an advantage though, as from there Purton was able to see and avoid the trouble that halted the two minor placegetters.
As Mount Athos, who overraced throughout, tired and moved back through the field, 6/4 favourite The Fugue and jockey William Buick were shuffled back to near last, alongside 6-1 chance Dunaden.
"Coming to the 600m they all started to bunch up and I was able to move into it under my own steam and keep my horse in a nice rhythm," Purton said. "I could see the favourites getting boxed up back on my inside, so I seized the opportunity to get a break on them. I was hoping that they would get out too late and I would be able to pinch it, and that's how it panned out. Then I just had to hope I could outstay them."
The Fugue could be considered unlucky for the second straight start after her heartbreaking defeat in the Breeders' Cup Turf and Buick was left lamenting the interference.
"It was a tricky race. I was well placed and suddenly a horse just stopped and took me with him. The winner got first run on me and I had lost momentum," he said.
Jamie Spencer admitted he had set Dunaden too much of a task. "Once again he gave everything but we were too far back and it was too much for him to do it from there," he said.
Last year's winner Red Cadeaux put in a remarkable run for fourth given how wide he travelled throughout, jockey Gerald Mosse praising the horse's toughness. "I didn't get a good trip. We were outside the field throughout and Red Cadeaux was very brave once again but it was not enough," he said.
Hong Kong today, the world tomorrow, says jubilant Moore
After clinching the holy grail of a Hong Kong Vase triumph on home soil, trainer John Moore will now send Dominant to take on the world.
Moore is plotting an ambitious 2014 campaign for the five-year-old that will begin in the desert of Dubai and end with a full preparation in Australia, aimed at the Melbourne Cup. First on the agenda is a run in the US$5 million Group One Sheema Classic over 2,400m on the turf at Meydan on March 29.
"Look, he just has to travel - he is a mile and half horse and there's no options here for him," Moore said. "Dubai is definitely on the cards, I'd like to think that would get him an invite to the Sheema Classic."
Moore said Dominant would then contest the only two Group races over 2,400m on the Hong Kong racing calendar, the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup and the Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, both in May. After that Moore said he not only plans to take Dominant down under, but arrive early enough to get enough "miles into the legs" to ensure he is competitive in longer races.
"I would be putting it to the syndicate to head down to Australia straight after the Hong Kong staying races to campaign for the Melbourne Spring Carnival. He was always bought for the Cups down there," he said. "And I wouldn't think only the Melbourne Cup. We could take him through quarantine and base ourselves in John Hawkes' Melbourne stable and stay there for a full prep."
"We will get the syndicate's approval of course, and it will be after he has finished his races here. We will head to Werribee (International Horse Centre) and make sure we have at least four months up our sleeve - we want to be there for a long time."
Dominant won the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup earlier this year, but was beaten into third as favourite in the Champions & Chater Cup next start, but Zac Purton said the horse was more seasoned now - a good sign for any attempted trip abroad.
"The thing he did this time that he didn't do last time over 2,400m is relax," Purton said. "Because he got on the chewy last year he wasn't able to finish off, but this time I just switched him off early."