Win Bright ambushed the Group One FWD QE II Cup (2,000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday and trainer Yoshihiro Hatakeyama said he has not finished pillaging Hong Kong’s riches after his charge saluted in track-record time.
Forgotten by punters, five-year-old Win Bright was sent out at $48 but took the race by the scruff of the neck in the straight to hit the line in 1:58.81 and trim 0.49 of a second off the track record.
It was the culmination of a raid months in the making for Win Bright after he was initially going to be targeted at last year’s Hong Kong International Races, and Hatakeyama wasted no time making his intentions clear.
Win Bright takes the HK$24 million FWD QEII Cup! Japan's grey clocks 1m 58.81s setting a new 2000m track record for trainer Yoshihiro Hatakeyama and jockey Masami Matsuoka. #HKracing #HKChampionsDay pic.twitter.com/TVDzbms537— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) April 28, 2019
“I would like to come back in December,” he said. “If he can run in the Hong Kong International Races, I hope the horse can become more powerful and develop more. It’s been a great honour to come here and win such a great race on the world stage.”
Win Bright was Hatakeyama’s first Hong Kong runner and he became the fifth Japanese horse to win the HK$24 million race, after Eishin Preston in 2002 and 2003, Rulership in 2012 and Neorealism in 2017.
While Hatakeyama admits he was concerned by Hong Kong’s humidity ahead of the race, Win Bright showed no signs of distress to snare his first Group One success, finishing three-quarters of a length ahead of Exultant, with fellow Japanese raider Lys Gracieux in third.
Former track-record holder Eagle Way finished ninth, while both Glorious Forever (fourth) and Time Warp (11th) held the mark before him, with the first five horses across the line stopping the clock inside the old mark of 1:59.30.
Making Win Bright’s performance all the more impressive was the fact he was slow away and jockey Masami Matsuoka said he was not surprised by the effort on what he labelled his “very best day” in the saddle.
“He galloped very well on Wednesday morning, clocking a very fast time, so the record time wasn’t unexpected,” he said.
“He didn’t jump well from the gate but then he got a good spot and travelled nicely, so overall he ran very well.”
Zac Purton went right back on Exultant before rattling home late, with trainer Tony Cruz admitting the five-year-old didn’t have it all his own way.
“It wasn’t a perfect race for him. We go to the Champions & Chater Cup [on May 26] now and then we’ll see,” Cruz said.
There was a moment in the straight when it looked like fan favourite Pakistan Star was going to deliver the fairy tale result, with jockey Matthew Chadwick booting the enigmatic six-year-old to the front with 200m to go before fading to finish fifth.
“He probably got there too soon, and that’s no criticism,” trainer Paul O’Sullivan said. “He had to take that gap when he did and Matthew said when he got there he sort of stargazed, he just really wants to be running at something.
“But it’s an improved effort, he’s racing well so we’ll press on for the [Champions & Chater Cup].”
The Frankie Lor Fu-chuen-trained Glorious Forever finished fourth, sticking on well after racing prominently throughout.
“He ran super. He switched off well for me but the winner was too good,” said jockey Derek Leung Ka-chun.