It took some absolute carnage behind him in a race reminiscent of a demolition derby that included one of the best things beaten this season, but after the mayhem Archippus returned to the Sha Tin straight in triumphant fashion.
Archippus hadn’t raced over 1,000m at Sha Tin since a debut dead heat win in November 2013 and although there were a host of hard luck stories behind him, most notably favourite Racing Supernova, winning trainer Paul O’Sullivan was taking what he could get.
“Was the favourite a bit unlucky? I think we might have just stolen one but we are happy to take it,” O’Sullivan joked with press after the five-year-old won his fourth race since joining the stable from Peter Ho Leung late last season.
Racing Supernova looked to be travelling sweetly in the middle stages, but when jockey Zac Purton began searching for runs, he ended up stuck in a pinball-like bumping duel, earning the ire of the rabid Sha Tin fans despite his best efforts.
Purton eventually managed to find a run along the outside rail late, but winning rider Keith Yeung Ming-lun had avoided the mess on Archippus, trailing the speed and wisely choosing to come to the centre of the track.
“I guess we got lucky,” Yeung said. “But I have been in enough straight races drawn 12, 13 or 14, where I think I am in a good spot, but end up with nowhere to go, so I wanted to come to the middle.”
Archippus has been a remarkably versatile performer, having previously won on the dirt and up to 1,400m at Sha Tin, before two starts back the Hong Kong International Sale graduate was even able to score over 1,000m at Happy Valley.
That victory came after the horse had displayed some wayward tendencies at the track as a younger horse, overracing and becoming uncontrollable, but O’Sullivan said the key for the horse is tempo.
“I don’t think he is naturally a 1,000m horse, but the thing about the 1,000m races is that they run along quickly and it suits him,” the trainer said about a horse that is a half-brother to Tavago, the winner of last month’s Australian Derby over 2,400m.
“As soon as they go too slow he starts pulling, running off the track and doing stupid things. Last time at the Valley he got the right sort of tempo, and these races up the straight are always run hard. He has won seven races for his owners and done a great job.”
It was a day when nothing went right for Purton – his well-supported race four runner Wild Five bled, favourite Sun Touch ended up trapped wide from a tricky draw before fading to finish fifth and later in the day Run Forrest even tried to bite the Australian jockey’s hand as he rode alongside on Kingsfield shortly after jumping.