Normcore denies Win Bright Hong Kong Cup double
Moore lands Vase on Mogul, Sprint on Danon Smash; Golden Sixty takes Mile
Despite being staged behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, yesterday's four Group 1 Longines Hong Kong International Races, totalling HK$95 million (S$16.3 million) in prize money, provided the thrills to local and worldwide audience on their television screens.
Asia's racing powerhouse Japan, which fielded the biggest overseas equine contingent, captured two races of the four prestigious races at Sha Tin.
It not only won the HK$22 million Hong Kong Sprint over 1,200m with 22-1 outsider Danon Smash, but also sent out the winner, runner-up and fourth-place getter in the main showpiece - the HK$28 million Hong Kong Cup over 2,000m - with 10-1 Normcore, last year's winner Win Bright and Danon Premium respectively.
Ireland's Magical ran third.
Hong Kong took the HK$25 million Hong Kong Mile over 1,600m with its latest sensation, the 1.3 favourite Golden Sixty, who has won 14 of his 15 starts, and the last 11 in a row.
Ireland's Mogul (2.5) was successful in the HK$20 million Hong Kong Vase over 2,400m, giving three-time British champion jockey Ryan Moore the first of his two winners. He was also the rider of Danon Smash.
GROUP 1 HONG KONG VASE
Mogul moved up gradually from second-last to join reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year and 2018 winner Exultant at the top of the straight. He then stepped into a higher gear to beat Exultant by three lengths.
It was the third Vase winner for Moore and Irish champion trainer Aidan O'Brien. They teamed up to win with Highland Reel in 2015 and 2017,
In the post-race interview, Moore reckoned Mogul "still lacked a little bit of maturity" but reminded him of former champion Dylan Thomas.
"He's a beautiful-looking horse - lots of ability, good mind. He reminds me a little bit of Dylan Thomas - similar type of horse," he said.
GROUP 1 HONG KONG SPRINT
It was a case of like father, like son when Danon Smash emulated his sire Lord Kanaloa's feat by winning this race. Lord Kanaloa won it in 2012 and the following year.
Danon Smash, who is also trained by Takayuki Yasuda, ended the host nation's hold of this race. After Lord Kanaloa won in 2013, the subsequent six winners were from Hong Kong.
Moore managed to secure a midfield spot after jumping from the widest barrier. He hit the front 350m out and beat Hong Kong's 84-1 outsider Jolly Banner by half a length.
"I must admit the barrier would make it difficult, but we got lucky. We got a lovely run and he travelled sweetly. Very brave, he fought all the way," said Moore.
Singapore's Inferno was withdrawn earlier as he was found to be lame in the left front leg.
GROUP 1 HONG KONG MILE
Although it was his stiffest test, the Francis Lui-trained Golden Sixty justified his superstar status with his blistering come-from-behind victory.
Southern Legend, dual winner of Singapore's Group 1 Kranji Mile, gave Hong Kong the quinella. Defending champion Admire Mars of Japan finished third of 10 runners.
"He's amazing, isn't he? It took him only a few strides to almost get to them. I tried to save him until I let him down, and, when I asked of him, he just delivered," said winning jockey Vincent Ho.
GROUP 1 HONG KONG CUP
While the season's leading Hong Kong jockey Joao Moreira could garner only a third with Columbus County in the Vase, reigning champion jockey Zac Purton landed the Cup with a masterful ride on Japan's Normcore. He was second on Exultant, the Vase's 1.7 favourite.
Purton, who won his second Longines International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, brought the Kiyoshi Hagiwara-trained grey mare from the rear to win by 3/4 lengths from Win Bright.
"I wouldn't say (it was) an unexpected result. We had a lovely gate, so we were going to get our chance," he said.
The winner was a chance mount for Purton, after Christophe Soumillon failed to secure an unconditional release from quarantine following a Covid-19 test on Thursday.
Purton has now become the first jockey to win nine Hong Kong International Races.