By David Morgan
Horse Of Fortune stole the spotlight and the purse on a record day at Sha Tin, Sunday, 6 November, with a no-nonsense display of class and resolution in the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m), a race that could hold a clue or two to next month’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.
Hong Kong has staged Ladies’ Purse day since 1846 and this time the annual Sa Sa-backed celebration of style, elegance and glamour drew a large crowd of 83,383, which, as well as being an event record, was 15% up on last year’s attendance. Turnover of HK$1.503 billion was a record for the day, too.
Horse Of Fortune’s (120lb) trainer, Tony Millard, is now mulling over a shot at Japan’s superstar Maurice et al in the HK$25 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
“We can look at the Internationals in December, and, if the owner’s happy to go, we’d have to look at that route,” he said, adding, “But if Maurice shows up, well that might be tough.
“We tried him in the Group 1 at the end of last season, the QEII Cup (2000m), but he wasn’t at his best that day, so we’ll see.”
The South African import still has some way to go to be a serious threat to the G1 heavyweights that might line up at Sha Tin on 11 December, but the six-year-old is heading in the right direction. There was plenty to like about this afternoon’s defeat of 13 talented rivals.
The bay stalked the pace-setter, Basic Trilogy (113lb) – jockey Karis Teetan plotting a course two widths from the fence in second – and when that rival began to falter on the turn for home, the Millard runner had only daylight and 400 metres of turf between himself and the winning post.
“Today we had a beautiful position, they were going nice and easy and he had his head down, travelling easily,” Teetan said. “He ran a good race last time, I knew this time it was a slightly weaker race and going out there Tony said ‘just be confident on him and he’s going to give you a kick’.”
That kick saw off the dour Basic Trilogy, but it was the gelding’s gameness and stamina that carried him to victory ahead of the fast-closing top-weight Helene Paragon (133lb) and the 3.1 race favourite, third-placed Eastern Express (115lb).
“He’s got a lot of quality, he showed that in South Africa, and when he came here he just needed that time to find his form, and, now he has found it, he’s showing he can perform,” Teetan said.
Horse Of Fortune’s four previous Hong Kong wins were achieved at Happy Valley and the gelding swept away any notion that he is a city track specialist with today’s three quarter-length verdict, in a time of 1m 47.17s.
Hammering home in second was the John Moore-trained Helene Paragon under Zac Purton. That run propelled the four-year-old back towards the fore in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile pecking order following two sub-standard performances.
“I’m delighted with the run. That’s the Helene Paragon of old. He had to be ridden back from the 14 gate and he got to the line really strongly,” Moore said after watching the Polan colt complete the home stretch in 22.76s.
“Zac said he bottomed 50 metres out but that the run was full of merit. He can’t ride the horse on the 20th (Jockey Club Mile) because he’s on Beauty Only, so I’ve contacted Hugh Bowman and Hugh said he can ride the horse on the 20th and then again on 11th December in the Hong Kong Mile, when Joao Moreira won’t be available either.
“He needs the racing so he’ll definitely be out again in two weeks. He’s a horse that does very well; he eats up and never leaves an oat – that’s him. He’s back to the form we saw him in at the end of last season,” Moore continued.
“The jury was out after those first couple of runs this season. Being an entire he just needs those runs to get fit and that’s why I ran him today – this wasn’t the plan, originally, but because of his lacklustre runs I decided I had to run him just to get that better guide on his fitness. I’m delighted he’s back on track.”
Purton said: “He ran well. When they put on the breaks mid-race it didn't really suit him, but he made up a lot of ground under that big weight, so that was a good effort.”
The Macau-trained The Alfonso ran on to finish eighth through a closing 400m split of 22.8s.
Moore was on the mark in race five, the Class 4 Elizabeth Arden Handicap (1000m) thanks to the unconsidered 81/1 chance Bumble Baby. The three-year-old was breaking his maiden at start three.
“At the 800 metres you'd have thought he was going to run fourth, and that’s what Sam (Clipperton) just said to me, but when he gave him a slap with the whip, he found another gear, which surprised us all,” Moore said.
“We’d have been happy with third or fourth today; it would have been promising. The first time blinkers got him focused and on that run he has a pretty bright future. If you look at him, conformation-wise, he just stands out as a sprinter.”
Moreira took the Class 5 opener on the Caspar Fownes-trained Fantasticlife and made it a double in race seven atop the exciting John Size-trained debutant, Beat The Clock. And in the finale another promising young gun, the Peter Ho-trained rising star Baba Mama, surged to a smart Class 3 win under Nash Rawiller.
Hong Kong racing resumes at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, 9 November.