Karis Teetan made amends for a tough defeat in last year’s BMW Hong Kong Derby when Romantic Warrior swooped late to dash the hopes of Zac Purton aboard long-time leader California Spangle at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Teetan was just touched off by a head in Hong Kong’s biggest race last season aboard Russian Emperor, with his mount in front just a couple of strides after the line, and the win of the Danny Shum Chap-shing-trained Romantic Warrior has finally allowed him to forget that disappointment.
“This is big for me,” Teetan said. “Last year was a big pill for me to swallow but I learned enough from that race. It toughened me up. In Hong Kong, that’s what you have to do – you move forward, you learn from your mistakes.”
It was not only mental toughness that Teetan displayed in this Derby victory as he needed all of his strength in the saddle to drive Romantic Warrior past his rivals in the home straight.
Early on it appeared as if Purton would again get an easy lead as California Spangle made his way to the front after breaking from a tricky draw in stall 10 but Teetan was quick to track the Classic Cup winner and found a perfect position just behind the speed.
Turning into the straight and Purton was keen to make his bid down the centre of the track after voicing concerns earlier in the week that the inside at Sha Tin could well prove the slowest part of the course and it was noticeable how many winners on the card raced wide in the home straight.
Teetan can’t wait for Hong Kong Derby after last year’s disappointment
For just a moment, Purton’s choice appeared a race-winning move with California Spangle stealing a couple of lengths over his rivals but Teetan managed to conjure a relentless run on Romantic Warrior to gun down his rival to win by a head.
Teetan was delighted with the way the race panned out but admitted to feeling anxious in the straight when California Spangle kicked for home.
“When the draw came out, I was not too concerned as he had the gate speed,” Teetan said.
“I knew what horse I had underneath me and I rode him positively from the gate and got him across nicely.
“I was in trouble a bit at the first turn when the horse got across him but just when they picked it up a little down the back straight, he really got on their back and I had a nice trail right through the straight.
Shum celebrates maiden Derby success as Warrior guns down California Spangle
“I must say I thought that Zac’s horse was going to be hard to get past but Romantic Warrior is a little horse and he has got a big heart. I’m just thankful to everybody, the owners, Danny and his team.
Romantic Warrior’s victory will be the start of an eventful few weeks for Teetan as his wife Xaviere is due to give birth soon and the Mauritian rider was keen to find out if the excitement had proved too much for his partner
“My wife said this morning that if I win the Derby her water might break. I might rush home to see if she is OK,” he said.