There was a million-dollar finish at Sha Tin on Sunday as Lucky Sweynesse just got the better of a pulsating duel with Navas Two in the Class Two Beas River Handicap (1,400m).
The winner and runner-up were both chasing a first Class Two victory and the subsequent HK$1 million high-achievement bonus and only a short-head separated the pair at the line.
Exciting three-year-old Lucky Sweynesse scooped the bonus and the winner’s cheque of over HK$1.3 million after sitting just off the pace and kicking clear in the straight before holding on grimly from the fast-finishing runner-up.
Lucky Sweynesse was ridden to victory by Matthew Poon Ming-fai, who was bringing up his 29th winner of the season, and he was delighted to make it into the winner’s enclosure with his first ride on the horse.
“He’s a young, improving horse and he just needs more racing experience to learn how to settle and he will be an even better horse,” Poon said.
“Today he over-raced a bit and was a little bit green, but going to Class Two for the first time and 1,400m, I think his performance is terrific.”
Lucky Sweynesse is now officially the second-best horse in Manfred Man Ka-leung’s yard behind the 99-rated Trillion Win and victory at his first attempt over 1,400m raises the possibility that he could be aimed at the four-year-old series next season, with Man having plenty to look forward to.
“We needed to give him a chance to prove himself at Sha Tin,” Man said. “We knew he had a chance but it is difficult to win as he is now racing in Class Two, it was his first time over 1,400m and his first time at Sha Tin, so there were a few challenges for him.
“I think he’s still going to improve as he’s just three years old. We’ll see how he goes.”
While Lucky Sweynesse’s connections had more than a year left to claim their HK$1 million bonus – which requires a horse to win in Class Two before they turn five – four-year-old Navas Two now has just one more chance to claim that prize after failing by the narrowest of margins.
Trainer Richard Gibson stressed the importance of the bonus in the build-up to the race and may be left ruing the one that got away after his runner left things too late under Alexis Badel.
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After missing the kick from stall one, Navas Two raced in last place until turning into the straight but his afterburners kicked in, with his strong finishing burst just failing to reel in the winner.
Despite that disappointment, Badel had been successful half an hour earlier when riding Super Oasis to victory in the Class Three Huangcun Sports Training Centre Handicap (1,600m) on an afternoon when wins were shared out among nine jockeys.
Only Karis Teetan, who now starts a two-meeting suspension, picked up more than one winner, riding a double aboard Royal Agility in the Class Five Education University Of Hong Kong Handicap (1,400m) and the admirable Alcari in the Class Three Guangdong Vocational Institute Of Sport Handicap (1,000m).