Another magical night for Hong Kong
• Lucky Nine creates history with back-to-back Krisflyer • Tommy Berry scores emotional SIA Cup win on Dan Excel
Hong Kong trainer John Moore cited the luck of the draw after he lifted his second consecutive Singapore Airlines International Cup trophy - victorious with DAN EXCEL yesterday - while last year's winner and overwhelming favourite Military Attack had to settle for third at Kranji last night.
Despite his chequered form since his dominant Singapore win last year, most experts had made Military Attack the Australian trainer's front-runner in this year's renewal of the $3 million International Group 1 race over 2,000m, ahead of his runner-up that night, Dan Excel.
But it was the latter, the perennial bridesmaid who turned the tables on him to earn the thicker end of the prize money in an emotionally-charged victory.
Moore, a regular visitor at the SIA Cup meeting over the years, was delighted that he had become the second trainer after Herman Brown (Jay Peg in 2008 and Gitano Hernando in 2011) to bag two SIA Cups, incidentally fuelling further the rapid rise of Hong Kong on the world racing scene.
One race earlier in the $1 million KrisFlyer International Sprint (1,200m), LUCKY NINE had scored back-to-back wins in the sprint sister race for his Sha Tin colleague Caspar Fownes, making it the second year in a row that the former British colony hogs both events.
But the 64-year-old Moore put the reverse of the result most had expected of his two runners down to their contrasting barrier draws.
"Dan Excel was always the underdog, the bridesmaid, but he drew the right gate. He had barrier No. 1 and he just enjoyed a ground-saving run on the rails throughout," said Moore.
"Military Attack had to get used very early to get across from his wide draw and he was not the same at the finish.
"Had he drawn a gate from 1 to 3, I think he would have finished a lot closer. It was still a great run, considering he was drawn wide and they broke the record."
Ridden by Tommy Berry, Dan Excel hugged the rails in third throughout the race, while Japanese flyer Tokei Halo bolted off to a commanding lead coming into the backstraight despite jumping from an outside alley (9).
Singapore challenger Wild Geese (A'Isisuhairi Kasim) did the bullocking work by leading the charge of the chasing pack, but was already shortening strides by the 800m, leaving the Moore pair of Military Attack and Dan Excel to put an indent on the leader's margin, though Tokei Halo seemed to be holding sway with plenty of resolve at the head of affairs.
But once Berry released the handbrakes, it was soon evident that Dan Excel was heading for victory. And he did it in convincing manner, winning by one-and-three-quarter lengths from Smoking Sun of France.
The fast pace set by Tokei Halo enabled Dan Excel to clock 1min 59.07sec, shaving 0.15sec off the record of Gloria De Campeao (1:59.22) on good track with plentyof "give'".
"I'm really happy for Tommy as we all know he went through really difficult times in the last month or so with the passing of his brother Nathan," said Moore.
There was a big butterfly that I saw in the mounting yard and he followed me on the way to the gates. Nathan was with me tonight.
— Winning jockey Tommy Berry
Berry: A win I will never forget
A teary-eyed jockey Tommy Berry had his late twin brother Nathan, who recently passed away from a rare brain condition after riding for two weeks in Singapore in March, uppermost in his thoughts as he stepped up for the post-race interview yesterday.
"This win here in Singapore is very important, as this is where Nathan last rode and he really enjoyed himself here," said the young Australian jockey, who is really establishing himself as a jockey of great occasions wherever he goes (he won the Group 1 Longines Singapore Gold Cup (2,200m) aboard Tropaios last November and also boasts multiple Group 1 wins with Designs Of Rome in Hong Kong where he is currently licensed).
"There was a big butterfly that I saw in the mounting yard and he followed me on the way to the gates. Nathan was with me tonight.
"This horse is not so young anymore, but he always toughs it out.
"After his last run when he was caught four wide and still ran second to Variety Club in the Champions Mile, I told John he should go to Singapore, and he told me he was and I was riding him.
"I'm so thankful to John and the whole team for the opportunity.
"The race panned out beautifully from the inside draw for him and he really raced like a good horse.
"I just let him cruise to the lead at the top of the straight.
"It's a win I won't forget."