Hong Kong – It was a fantastic day for Japan at the Hong Kong International Races as they took three of the four Group 1 contests at Sha Tin.
The first of the Japanese raiders to taste success was aptly named Glory Vase who took the honours in the HK$ 20,000,000 (R37 million) Hong Kong Vase.
Glory Vase stormed home up the straight to beat Lucky Lilac by 3.5 lengths with last year’s winner Exultant a neck back in third.
Deirdre – winner of the Nassau Stakes at Goodwood in the summer – was fourth.
Winning trainer Tomohito Ozeki said: “I’m overwhelmed. Moreira did an amazing job riding the horse. We’ve been targeting this race because we felt the track would suit him and the owner was happy to come. Winning international races like this, this is my job as a trainer, this is the best.”
For Moreira it was the first of a Group 1 double on the day.
“From the 350m pole, I knew I was the winner as I felt I had loads of horse under me. He was attacking the line like a really good horse. He’s got such a big engine, such a big heart. It was a pleasure to ride him.”
True Self was seventh for Willie Mullins, with Young Rascal (William Haggas) in ninth, Prince Of Arran (Charlie Fellowes) 11th, Anthony Van Dyck 12th, Aspetar (Roger Charlton) 13th and Mount Everest (O’Brien) last of the 14 starters.
Immediately after the Vase, Moreira timed his run to perfection aboard Beat The Clock to claim the Longines Hong Kong Sprint.
It looked like everything had gone to plan in the 1200m affair for red-hot favourite Aethero, who charged to the front under Zac Purton and still led 200m out.
But his stride began to shorten as the post loomed and he was swamped with 50m to run, with the John Size-trained Beat The Clock finishing best of all and Hot King Prawn edging Aethero for second.
Size said: “His strength is his character, with a tremendous will to win and fighting spirit. He saves his energy for raceday and gives you everything he’s got.
“It’s really humbling to see him do that. There are some Group 1s here in Hong Kong and the next one at the end of January will be on his agenda.”
Moreira added: “He wasn’t fast enough from the gate but turning for home I felt I had plenty in my hands and that the way he was coming he was going to win.
“I’ve been associated with this horse for a long time and am proud he’s proved he’s the best sprinter today.”
Admire Mars produced an out of this world performance to land the Hong Kong Mile under Christophe Soumillon.
This three-year-old was in mid-division for much of the race but found another gear up the straight and held off the challenge of Waikuku and Joao Moreira to earn his third top-level success by 0.5 lengths.
Soumillon said: “What a horse. I’ve been so lucky to ride in Japan and it’s paid off today.
“I know Admire Mars is quite tough so when I took him out, I thought he’d go and catch up. He’s a hard fighter. I thought Joao might catch me on the line, but he was very strong. It’s great to be a part of this race’s amazing history.”
Beauty Generation, a seven-time Group 1 winner at Sha Tin, made much of the running under Zac Purton and finished 1.25 lengths behind Waikuku in third.
Japan made it three from four Group 1s when Yoshihiro Hatakeyama’s Win Bright held off the rallying effort of Magic Wand to land the Hong Kong Cup by a short head under Masami Matsuoka. The victory saw Win Bright complete the QEII-Hong Kong Cup double.
It was the full brothers Time Warp and Glorious Forever – also the last two winners of the Hong Kong Cup – who made the early running but were pegged back by their rivals after turning for home.
Win Bright kicked on to take the lead with the mount of Ryan Moore hot on his tail, but the line came too soon and Magic Wand had to make do with second.
Rise High finished 0.5 lengths behind Magic Wand in third. – sportinglife.com, racingpost.com