Hong Kong stayer Russian Emperor won the H.H. The Amir Trophy (2,400m) in Qatar on Saturday in what was a groundbreaking triumph for a city-trained galloper and an emotional one for his jockey, Alberto Sanna.
Russian Emperor became Hong Kong’s first-ever winner in Qatar and the first city-based runner to win in another jurisdiction since Southern Legend’s success in the Kranji Mile on Singaporean soil in May 2019.
Victory in the US$2.5 million H.H. The Amir Trophy meant a lot to all of Russian Emperor’s connections – owner Mike Cheung Shun-ching, trainer Douglas Whyte and Sanna – but none more than the latter, who fought back tears as he spoke about the personal significance of his mount’s half-length win.
“After all the bad things I got in Hong Kong, at least I was able to ride again with a Hong Kong horse in a good race like this one,” said Sanna, who celebrated only 34 wins in his 737 rides in Hong Kong between September 2017 and December 2019.
Hong Kong is proud! 🇭🇰 Russian Emperor's brilliant in Qatar's H.H. The Amir Trophy for @DJWhyteTrainer and Alberto Sanna. 🏆@Q_REC | #AmirSwordFestival— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) February 18, 2023
“All the credit to Dougie, who was my friend when I was [in Hong Kong]. He trusted me, and he put me back on his top horse. I thought I was the winner a month ago when I was booked and I spoke with Doug.
“Dreams come true sometimes.”
Whyte did not ride a Hong Kong-prepared winner overseas during his illustrious career as a jockey, but he is one from one as a travelling trainer.
“It’s amazing,” Whyte said. “It’s the first time I’ve travelled a horse abroad. I’m only new to the training ranks, but [Russian Emperor’s] a special horse for me. I’ve won two Group One races with him in Hong Kong, and I thought he was the right horse to travel with temperament wise. I must say he’s really blossomed since he’s landed in Qatar.”
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Warren Point and Bolthole filled the H.H. The Amir Trophy minor placings, while Hong Kong’s other representative, Caspar Fownes-trained Senor Toba, finished seventh of 12 under Harry Bentley.
Russian Emperor and Senor Toba hold entries for races in the United Arab Emirates, with H.H. The Amir Trophy runners targeting the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic (2,410m) on March 25.