There was no fairy-tale farewell for Joao Moreira and Glory Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday, but there was more joy for Japan all the same in the Group One Hong Kong Vase.
Glory Vase and Moreira were looking to combine for a record third win in the 2,400m feature in the seven-year-old’s final race – and on the Magic Man’s final day riding in Hong Kong – but Damian Lane and Win Marilyn spoiled the party with an emphatic last-to-first victory.
It was Japan’s fifth Vase victory and fourth in the past seven years, while it was the 20th Longines Hong Kong International Races feature to head back to the Land of the Rising Sun.
A regular visitor to Japan, Australian jockey Lane was thrilled to secure his first Group One success in Hong Kong aboard one of its gallopers.
“I’m just privileged to be a part of Japanese racing and getting on these horses,” said Lane.
“It’s very special to win a Group One here in Hong Kong. I’ve been here on numerous occasions and haven’t been able to break through, so to do it is a great relief, and to do it with the Japanese is really special. “[It’s an] adopted home for me. I love it there.”
Win Marilyn, raced by the same connections as dual Sha Tin Group One winner Win Bright, was saluting at the top level for the first time.
She came into the race off a runner-up performance behind Geraldina in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2,200m) at Hanshin.
Lane was also in the saddle that day and was not surprised to see the five-year-old mare kick on from that effort.
“She showed a good turn of foot at the end of the race, and I think that really suits the 2,400m here in Hong Kong,” he said.
“I thought the horse who beat her that day was something special, so I was confident she could hold that form here today.”
After travelling one off the fence just behind midfield, $6.55 chance Win Marilyn was shuffled back to last before Lane took her around the field cornering for home and unleashed her in the home straight.
“She’s just the ultimate professional. She jumps well. She travels sweetly. You can ride her wherever you want,” he said.
“When the pace was on, I was happy to take a sit. I just knew with her turn of foot at the end of her last run she’d be really suited up to this trip today.”
Win Marilyn finished a length and a half clear of French galloper Botanik in second and trainer Takahisa Tezuka was pleased to see a plan come together.
“After the Queen Elizabeth when she ran second, we talked about the Hong Kong trip with the owner and decided to come. This is my first trip to Hong Kong, and I’m very honoured to be here representing Japan,” Tezuka said, before praising his jockey.
“I’m very proud of him. He gave her a very good ride. It wasn’t the exact tactics we talked about before the race, but Damian did a very good job.”
Glory Vase had to settle for third, Panfield was the first Hong Kong-trained horse across the line – Tony Millard’s Group One winner took fourth at $58 – while $2.2 favourite Stone Age finished fifth for Aidan O’Brien.
Things could not have gone much worse for German raider Mendocino, who reared as the gates opened and took no part in the race.