December 13, 2009

Hong Kong Phooey

American runners found no pot of gold at the end of the Hong Kong rainbow, as all four of our runners failed to hit the board in the rich series of Hong Kong International races held today at Sha Tin Racecourse.

America’s best hope appeared to be in the Hong Kong Sprint, as we were represented by two quality entrants. The California bred speedster, and recent Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint champion, California Flag would contest the early pace while the Wesley Ward globetrotter, Cannonball would hope to make his presence known down the lane. Things were not made easy for California Flag and jockey Joe Talamo early on as he was pressed hard for the lead in the first three furlongs by a Japanese sprinter. California Flag spurted clear as they straightened out but had no answer for the winner’s challenge in mid-stretch and faded to 5th in the last few meters. Beaten just under two lengths, it was a good performance for California Flag, but not quite good enough. Meanwhile, Cannonball made up some ground but never threatened and finished at the back of the middle pack in 10th. The winner, Sacred Kingdom, scored in this race for the second time as he moved powerfully by California Flag at the furlong marker and was much the best. Favored in the field of 14, Sacred Kingdom, a Hong Kong local, is rated as the best sprinter in the world and did nothing to dispel that notion with the impressive win.

The Hong Kong Mile attracted one horse from our borders in the Californian, Ferneley. Unfortunately, he ran into a true Hong Kong superstar, Good Ba Ba. Ferneley actually ran a big race and was hampered by a little traffic as he uncoiled his run from the back of the pack. He did manage to get up for 5th in the 14 horse field. With more racing luck, he may well have been closer at the finish, but most likely not good enough to displace the winner and first three-time winner of a Hong Kong International race, Good Ba Ba. The former Horse of the Year in Hong Kong, made his patented late run to get up in the final 50 meters and thrill the local fans. He had not won his last few races in preparation for the Mile, but when the big race was run, Good Ba Ba once again proved himself a champion.

In the Hong Kong Vase, distance loving mare, Black Mamba was the American entrant. Hopes for a win in this one did not last long as Black Mamba had nothing, in what will likely be her final career race. She backed out early and was a distant trailer through the entire Hong Kong stretch. At the other end of the field, there may have been a new star born in the Vase, as French three-year-old filly Daryakana closed from last with a fantastic rush to get up in the shadow of the wire over recent Breeders’ Cup 4th place finisher, Spanish Moon. It was the fifth win for the undefeated daughter of Selkirk, and her first outside of her native country. Three time Arc runner-up Youmzain finished a disappointing 10th.

The French kept it going in the day’s richest race, the Hong Kong Cup. The 10 furlong affair attracted a field of ten, although no Americans. Proving best was Vision D’etat. The classy four-year-old French colt rebounded from his poor showing in the Arc, with a stylish ¾ of a length score. It was the ninth win in only 13 starts for the son of Chichicastenango. Last year’s winner and former BC Turf runner-up Eagle Mountain finished 5th.

I wish I had better news to report American race fans, but the final tally today from Hong Kong is: Hong Kong - 2, France - 2, America - 0. Better luck next year.


ja.raymond said...

Oh well, our blood cant win them all internationally! We'll get something next yr :)

LDP said...

Well it's not like we disgraced ourselves, most of them ran pretty well from what you posted, so it's not all bad. On your poll, I have no idea between LAL or AL. AL is so talented, but seems really green, while LAL is all heart along with his talent. Tough call for me.

Anonymous said...

California Flag was only two lenghths behind Sacred Kingdom. The poor Australians had a bad run of it, Scenic Blast bleeding from both nostrils and the famous Apache Cat pulling up sore (reported by his trainer to be alright) All Silent had been at 7/2 in the Sprint, from the farthest post I believe, he ran 8th behind Apache Cat. One thing worth noting, All Silent's rider had debated using the now padded whips required at home or a regular whip. I read that he chose the padded whip, even though he mentioned his horse needing to be roused every now and then. The Australian press has written that the Hong Kong International Day is their favorite racing day outside of Australia, so it was a bigger bummer for them than us.

As Americans lick their wounds the day after, here's a nice consolation memory. The very first running of the Hong Kong Vase was won by our very own Cash Asmussen! Who to me succeeded that by ever being able to make jockey weight to begin with. I'll take my little bits of pride where ever I can. Better luck next year for the Americans.

Good Ba Ba means Good Father, named to stress the importance of fathers. I'm really happy for him winning three years in a row. Good Ba Ba was bred in Kentucky by the way. And Sacred Kingdom really beat a good field in his repeat win. Youmzain 10th!!! Oh no! I was pulling for him to get that elusive win that has escaped him recently. Another unbeaten Aga Khan filly in Daryakana, where are all the headlines highlighting yet more International Girl Power? Hopefully she'll run again next year.

How do you like Vision d'Etat coming back from being lame on Saturday to win on Sunday? I read that he had swollen up from a scrape that got infected. It's a good thing that the trainers and vets get to make the decisions about running the horses, they really do know best I think. Last year's winner in the Cup, Eagle Mountain, ran 5th. There has never been a repeat winner in that race I believe.

Breeder's Cup
Dubai World Cup
Hong Kong International Day

The three biggest days of international racing? Any other big splashes on the international scene that I am missing?

Brian Zipse said...

Good points all the way around Anonymous, I agree with everything you said. No doubt the locals and the French were the big winners.

Yes, as far are as multiple races with the highest concentration of quality within a single day, (or 2 days for the BC) I think you are dead on with your assessment of the world's greatest racedays.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zipse, it seems that Apache Cat's trainer spoke too soon of his champ's status. The Cat has been retired at age 7 with the first injury of his career. He suffered a small sesamoid fracture while running in Hong Kong. It was not in any way life threatening, and they briefly considered surgery that would allow him to return to the races. He is now going to reside at Living Legends in Melbourne. A veteran of 43 races, winning 19 (8 Group I, 4 Group II, 4 Group III) and placing in 11 more. His earnings totalled $4.6 million. Thanks for the memories Apache Cat. Recent winner US winner Rodman reminds me of him.