Lucky Sweynesse became the first speedster to carry a penalty to victory in a Jockey Club Sprint since 2015 winner Gold-Fun when he was the opening leg of Zac Purton’s Group Two double at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Ten individual gallopers, including Mr Stunning and Wellington in back-to-back editions, had failed to lug 128 pounds to Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) glory prior to Lucky Sweynesse running down pacesetting Victor The Winner and taking out this year’s renewal of the BOCHK Private Banking-sponsored dash.
Lucky Sweynesse, whom Purton partnered 35 minutes before he steered Beauty Eternal to victory in the Group Two BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile, beat Victor The Winner by a neck, with Wellington one length further back in third on his first competitive appearance for Jamie Richards.
Not for the first time, Victor The Winner led a Sha Tin sprint at a slower-than-standard speed in its early stages – he covered the opening 400m more than four-tenths of a second outside the Group-class benchmark – but Lucky Sweynesse matched the leader’s middle 400m of 21.93 seconds before clocking a race-best 22.28 seconds for the closing 400m.
“He got the job done. He’s sort of getting back to his best,” Purton said after Lucky Sweynesse bounced back from consecutive short-odds defeats and joined Hong Kong racing royalty Silent Witness as a back-to-back Jockey Club Sprint champion.
“He’s not quite there yet, but he took another step in the right direction. He’s going to need to be better next time,” Purton added, referencing the Group One Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) on December 10, which is his ownership group’s dream.
With Manfred Man Ka-leung skipping his post-race media duties to rush to the airport, two of Lucky Sweynesse’s connections, Cheng Yu-tung and Cheng Yu-wai, stood in for the trainer and explained why they prioritised the Hong Kong International Races [HKIR] over major events in Japan and Australia.
“[The Hong Kong Sprint] is our mission. We think our horse should have the honour of winning the international race,” Cheng Yu-tung said.
“Our horse was only four years old last season, and going to either Japan [for the Yasuda Kinen in June] or Australia [for The Everest in October] would have presented different difficulties.
“So we wanted to give him some rest and target the international race this year. He’s fantastic. He’s amazing. It’s our honour to own this horse.”
On Wednesday, the Jockey Club will release the fields for HKIR’s four features, with the United Kingdom’s Highfield Princess, Ireland’s Aesop’s Fables and Japan’s Mad Cool tipped to be among the foreign raiders in the HK$26 million Sprint.
Highfield Princess justified favouritism to win October’s Group One Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (1,000m). Aesop’s Fables followed up his one-length Abbaye third with the same result in this month’s Group One Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (1,000m). Mad Cool was the nose runner-up to Mama Cocha in last month’s Group One Sprinters Stakes (1,200m).
Purton, who has been aboard Lucky Sweynesse for 10 of his 14 victories and his worst-ever placing – his luckless sixth in last season’s Hong Kong Sprint – rode three winners at Sha Tin on Sunday, with Raging Blizzard’s Class Four breakthrough coming before the triumphs of Beauty Eternal and Hong Kong’s Champion Sprinter in higher grades.