Contentment is a Champions Mile success
John Size-trained outsider survives an objection, while favourite Rapper Dragon breaks down during the Group 1 race
CONTENTMENT won a dramatic HK$16 million (S$2.9 million) Champions Mile at Sha Tin yesterday.
Trainer John Size's charge battled to a neck verdict under Brett Prebble and survived an objection to seal a second Group 1 triumph, this time at odds of 25-1.
Zac Purton, rider of runner-up Beauty Only, lodged a grievance and the ensuing stewards' inquiry raised tension among the crowd, but it was a jubilant Prebble that jogged back out to receive the silverware.
"I was pretty confident," Prebble said afterwards. "Zac didn't stop riding."
That aside, the Australian ace enjoyed a propitious run on the "quirky" six-year-old. Contentment is accustomed to leading the field, and up front was where Prebble found himself after breaking smartly from gate 1 in the seven-runner contest.
But when English raider Stormy Antarctic, over-racing in first-time blinkers, thundered by at the 900m point, the two-time Melbourne champion was happy to take the slipstream.
"The race didn't go to plan, I was a little shuffled up around mid-race but that actually worked out well because he hasn't had a bunny to chase for a while," Prebble said.
Stormy Antarctic was all out at the top of the home straight as Helene Paragon unleashed an early kick to edge the lead. But Contentment was not for bowing and, presented with a new quarry and, urged on by a mighty Prebble drive, the Hussonet gelding boxed to the fore deep inside the final 200m. Beauty Only charged late on the inside.
"When Helene Paragon shot to the front quite early, that gave him an extra bunny to guide him along and give him something to look at," Prebble said. "He has a tendency to gaze around at things in the final stages - that's why he had the blinkers on last time but they didn't work out so the pacifiers were back on.
"When he got to the front today, he was waiting again and looking, and when Beauty Only came to him he dug deep again. He's a quirky horse but he's definitely got that performance there when he can give it to us - 100 per cent of the credit goes to John. He's a genius."
It was a third Champions Mile success for Prebble, following wins on Bullish Luck (2006) and the Size-trained Sight Winner (2009).
A return trip to Tokyo in June for the Group 1 Yasuda Kinen over 1,600m looks to be on the cards for Contentment.
"After winning this race, I'm sure, if the owner's agreeable, we'll go to Japan," Size offered.
The post-race atmosphere was anxious even before the objection notice was raised.
The crowd had gasped when, with 750m to race, Rapper Dragon, the BMW Hong Kong Derby winner and 1.4 favourite, went lame. Joao Moreira's mount was racing at the tail of the pack and stopped abruptly. Rapper Dragon received immediate treatment from the on-course veterinarians and walked into the horse ambulance. The Moore-trained gelding was taken to the on-site Equine Hospital, where he was diagnosed with a fractured pelvis.
Head of veterinary clinical services, Dr Christopher Riggs, said: "Rapper Dragon suffered a severe fracture of his pelvis which, unfortunately, was coupled with serious complications. Despite our intensive care in the equine hospital, we were unable to save him." - HKJC