The win was Simply Brilliant, the stumble after the line was simply scary.
Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s rising star showed what he is capable of with a strong win in the Group Three January Cup, but the ecstasy of victory turned to concern in a matter of strides when the five-year-old knuckled, sending jockey Alexis Badel tumbling to the turf.
The Frenchman was lucky not to be clipped by the trailing Northern Superstar on the way through and while he was able to walk back to scale, he looked sore and was stood down from his remaining ride.
Simply Brilliant also appeared to escape without any serious injury, but the incident was a sharp reminder of the fine line these athletes – both equine and human – tread as they chase glory.
“I’m not too bad, I’m quite stiff but it could have been worse,” Badel said after posing for photos with connections.
The fall took some of the focus away from Simply Brilliant’s performance, which gave his sire Frankel his first Group victory in Hong Kong.
Badel settled the gelding in the box seat behind two-time Group One winner Time Warp before switching off heels at the top of the straight and running straight past him, holding off the fast-finishing Citron Spirit to claim Happy Valley’s only Group race of the season.
“The horse showed very good speed, he had plenty of energy and I could have even led,” Badel said.
“I was happy behind the favourite. He was very strong today, he gave me a very good turn of foot and he kept going. He’s still improving.”
Simply Brilliant improved his record to five wins and five placings from 12 starts and Lor felt the conditions of the race suited him.
High drama in the G3 January Cup: Simply Brilliant swoops to conquer under a dashing ride from @AlexisBadel only to dislodge his rider just after the line. Happily, the Frenchman walks away unaided. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/fC4hlfJlUs— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) January 9, 2019
“This horse has improved which is why he was able to run like this in a Group race,” he said. “I thought he was going to run a good race because of the light weight. He only had 114 pounds and Time Warp had 133 – it’s a big difference.
“I don’t know what we’ll do next, I need to have a look at the programme to find another race for him.”
Time Warp, who jumped the $3.3 favourite, led into the straight but felt the pinch late to finish fourth with jockey Zac Purton saying “it’s not easy carrying that weight against those horses but I thought he’d give me more”.
Visually, the win of the night came from Super Lucky, who hit the line like he had been shot out of a cannon.
Having his first start for Caspar Fownes after being winless in 12 runs for Dennis Yip Chor-hong, the five-year-old was smashed into favouritism late in betting, but things didn’t get off to a good start.
The gelding struggled to keep up early in the Class Four Kingston Handicap and was last as they turned for home, but Purton didn’t panic and the gaps opened up on the inside and Super Lucky stormed through them to win with a leg in the air.
“I was expecting that,” a delighted Fownes said. “He’s done well [since he got into the stable], I went through his races and felt he could run a fresh 1,200m. I said to Zac, ‘Just be confident, he’s flying, for me it wins.’
“In the run I was a bit worried, we’re on the A course and getting shuffled back to last, but he picked up well and won nicely. I think he’s still got some upside.”
The shortest-priced favourite of the meeting, John Size’s Special Stars landed the prize after Joao Moreira decided to take luck out of the equation.
The Magic Man went straight to the front and while Most Beautiful cut the margin to a neck on the line, the $1.3 shot always seemed to have the race in hand. The duo made it a double when Country Star saluted at $1.9 in the last race.
Favourite backers weren’t so lucky in the fifth event when odds-on favourite Happy Warrior went down by short head.
Instead, the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Universal Go Go responded to Vincent Ho Chak-yiu’s strong riding, holding off the challenge of John Moore’s gelding in the run to the post.
That win broke a run of 72 outs for Lui but he didn’t have to wait long for another as Racing Luck also saluted for the combination just two races later.