Racing

It's a clean Hong Kong sweep

They capture all four 'internationals' to stamp their authority at Sha Tin

Asia's racing powerhouse Hong Kong created history at Sha Tin yesterday when sweeping all four Hong Kong International Races which threw its racing-mad fans into a frenzy.

Hong Kong runners had won three of the four International Group 1 events at a single HKIR five times, the last being last year with Mr Stunning in the 1,200m Hong Kong Sprint, Beauty Generation in the Hong Kong Mile and Time Warp in the 2,000m Hong Kong Cup.

Yesterday, Mr Stunning and Beauty Generation made it back-to-back in their respective events, while Time Warp finished third to Glorious Forever in the Cup. Exultant took the 2,400m Hong Kong Vase.

Japan, Asia's other powerhouse, filled the runner-up spots in three races - with Lys Gracieux in the Vase, Vivlos in the Mile and Deirdre in the Cup.

Horses from six foreign countries, including Singapore's Champion Sprinter Lim's Cruiser (see other story), took on the best of Hong Kong in the meeting billed as the "Turf World Championships" with the combined prize money of HK$93 million (S$16.2 million).

Hong Kong's fairy-tale meeting started with the Tony Cruz-trained Exultant scoring a gallant neck-victory over Lys Gracieux in the HK$20 million Vase.

Japan's Crocosmia led early, chased by Exultant and Hong Kong's Ruthven. Champion Hong Kong jockey Zac Purton steered Exultant to overtake the leader shortly after straightening.

The "Magic Man" Joao Moreira brought Lys Gracieux up with a powerful run and popped ahead at the 150m mark. But Exultant rallied back under Purton's urgings to prevail by a neck. Ireland's Eziyra finished third, 2.5 lengths behind.

"I thought at that point he (Moreira) had the better of me. He had the momentum," said Purton. "But my bloke just seemed to be loafing along and as Joao came to me, he actually rolled in and bumped my horse - that seemed to fire him back up and he found his second wind."

Mr Stunning, who was saddled by champion trainer John Size last year, gave second-season trainer Frankie Lor and jockey Karis Teetan their magical moments with a good three-quarter-length win over the Size-trained DB Pin in the HK$20 million Sprint. Size's Beat The Clock was third, half a length away.

Singapore's Lim's Cruiser flashed home from second-last to finish seventh, the best of the three foreign horses.

In the HK$25 million Mile, the John Moore-trained Beauty Generation stamped his class as the world's top miler with a runaway victory under Purton's riding, three lengths clear of Japan's Vivlos. Southern Legend of Hong Kong finished third.

"That's what we all hoped we'd see today. He has shown everyone how brutally good he can be," said Purton.

"His best attribute is he has got a very high-cruising speed, he's very comfortable rolling along at that speed . For the others, it's not easy trying to reel him in."

After three Hong Kong victories, it looked like it would take a lot of luck to beat two of the three Japanese horses - Sungrazer, the favourite, and Deirdre - in the HK$28 million Cup. But Lady Luck was with Hong Kong.

Brazilian jockey Silvestre de Sousa rode a wonderful front-running race from the inner-most gate on the Lor-trained Glorious Forever.

Glorious Forever kicked to a two-length lead over defending champion Time Warp and the rest followed.

The leader was rated so beautifully that his rivals were left flat-footed. Deirdre came home well under Christophe Lemaire but the bird had flown. Glorious Forever had a length to spare on the line.

Time Warp was third. Sungrazer finished fourth under Moreira.

"Everything was in my favour, the draw was perfect. Everything went to the plan," said de Sousa.

"I didn't want to overdo it in front but to make sure Time Warp didn't come around, I had to make sure we were going a true gallop.

"I won the battle for the first 300 metres and I was going so well at the 800 (metres), I thought to myself they would have to be very good to pick him up."

HORSE RACING