If those who saw the television promo spot for the Audemars Piguet QE 11 Cup shuddered and thought it was somewhat gloomy and slightly spooky, then the racing on Sunday at Shatin continued with the weirdness and surrrealism of it all. Ironically, the meeting even had a horse named Surrealism running. Think it ran last.
It all started even before the first race had been run and the news that the lethal Zac Attack- Zac Purton- would not be riding. His kidney stones problem had flared up again, and the champion rider was to be operated on later that afternoon.
On top of this, there was the nagging question as to whether Military Attack, his ride in the big race, would be a starter. It started. It didn’t run a place.
At the races, the weirdness continued with a number of horses having to be withdrawn at the barriers after freakish accidents, the most expensive casualty for all being Motif, the raging favourite in race 3 carrying $63 million in Win bets.
Then, for all those who had done their homework, and had even made their bets early, only one of the replacements for Purton’s rides- Tommy Berry- was able to deliver.
As for the Magic Man, he was awesome on Packing Pins, but, spectacularly unspectacular with his ride on Eroico, where he persevered and persevered for an inside run that never happened, leaving many to wonder if the Moses act has run its course.
For the final curtain call, the last race of the day ended with an objection, which saw the original winner- the heavily tipped Travel Renyi-relegated to second place.
Reading the Stipes report, jockey after jockey could offer no explanation as to why their horses turned out flat in running, whereas television audiences were subjected to some truly mind-numbing and relentless prattle from former race caller David Raphael. Who invited him to the party?
Raphael can be a dreadful bore when handed a microphone. He falls in love with his own voice, and on Sunday, the former Hong Kong race caller- and a very good one- basically, hijacked the Trackside show and talked all over everyone else. It was the Steamroller Blues.
Perhaps he was at his opportunistic best using the occasion to promote his newly established company- David Raphael Media? Or, he might have shouted himself a first class return ticket, courtesy of the commission earned out of the sale he brokered with Coolmore for their purchase of Rubick?
As for Sunday’s races, what can’t be taken away- not even by David Raphael- were the emphatic wins, at least for that day, by Dundonnell in the Sprint Cup, and the tough as old boots Blazing Speed in the all-important Audemars Piguet QE 11 Cup.
There might have been six top Australian hoops riding at the meeting, but it took a Frenchman- Stephane Pasquier, and an Irishman- Neil Callan, who simply out-rode the others by reading the speed of the race better- to ride the day’s biggest winners for English trainer Richard Gibson and Hong Kong’s favourite racing son Tony Cruz, respectively.
“Cruzy” not only mapped out the perfect schedule for Blazing Speed, he unselfishly gave Callan all the advice the former brilliant champion has in his bag of experience as how – and when- to bring out the best in his often underrated galloper while the win also brought together the warring parties in the ownership syndicate. It put an end to their very public- and ugly- spat about prize money. Girls will be girls and boys can be silly.
As for Richard Gibson, he not only trained the quinella in the Sprint Cup, but if Travel Renyi had kept the last race, he would have trained a treble on a rare big race day where John Moore came up empty-handed. That’s racing, and watch for Moore to come roaring back to the fore this Sunday.
In hindsight, what might have been a day that began under a cloud turned into a blaze of glory for a jockey- an Iron Man who refuses to be knocked down by anything or anyone- who’s played second and third fiddle to Moreira and Purton, but came into his own with a savvy ride on an extremely brave horse- an iron horse- trained by a racing legend who had won the QE11 Cup twice as a jockey, and now as a trainer.
The C Team became The A Team last Sunday. They did Hong Kong proud.
THE FAST TRACKER PREPARES TO BE UPSET
With racing on the C+3 Course, I will be sitting back and watching the first two races to see if tonight will start off being a leaders track with the rails being the best place to be, or whether the track might suit those horses ridden off the speed, and coming down the middle of the track.
Though The Prince, Fortune Territory and Trillion Treasure look the main chances, there’s an ominous vibe to this race that can see another big Quartet result- and tonight, ALL Quartets have a jackpot.
The first leg of the Six Up made bloody tough as usual with at least six horses with winning chances.
As mentioned time and time again, this season, this first leg is usually a blowout for favourites as is the last leg of the Six Up. They get you at the first hurdle and then rock your world before sending you home in a gunny sack. Mercifully, there’s Adrenaline to ease the pain.
It’s a little surprising to see Zac Purton not sticking with the Paul O’Sullivan-trained Amazing Gift which has won twice over course and distance before disappointing as favourite over 1800m at its last start. Jockey Of The Moment, Neil “Blazing Saddles” Callan takes over, and it must be rated a chance over the 1650m it tackles here along with Goldweaver, and Rising Power.
These look the main chances with place chances going to Yeung Sing, Very Well, Real General and, for big odds, Holy Star. But this is a weak race with some weak conveyances and all being very much the same: Weaklings.
This being the first leg of the Triple Trio and always worth a throw at the stumps, I’ll use either Rising Power or Amazing Gift as bankers, or even double bankers to keep my outlay down in what is a very tough race.
A 2200m staying event which always means someone taking off a long way from home and playing catch me if you can.
On form, I’ll have to go with Telephatia, which will be ridden by Keith Yeung who held his own – why hold someone else’s?-against some top International riders on Sunday by riding a very good double.
Horse and jockey have won over course and distance three runs ago, and can easily repeat that success against a number of runners that have never tackled this distance before.
One horse that has run out the 2200m of this race includes the enigmatic Backbench Blues, which will have the services of Brett Prebble, who appears to be smarter than the average bear, Boo Boo, when riding these distance races.
What should also be remembered is that Backbench Blues, when ridden by Zac Purton, beat Loving Star over course and distance when on the same rating points of 60 it has tonight.
Smart Declaration has won over course and distance for Andy Suborics and must be followed again.
I’d take this on a win line with place chances given to the often overrated Sight Believer mainly cos of the Size-Moreira factor along with, perhaps, the Caspar Fownes trio of Mr Ginger, Fun’ N Games, and Windicator Star. But all three are much of the same: ordinary sorts.
If Windicator Star doesn’t bomb the start and is anywhere near its best, it can win a race that isn’t exactly the Chariots Of The Gods. But it’s a Big If and a Big Ask. And The Big Lebowsky.
Two runners that could easily surprise are Beauty Kingdom though it definitely needs longer, and St Yazin. Douglas Whyte sticks with this, which, though drawn 11, doesn’t really matter as it must be ridden off the pace, which is how it’s won two races over course and distance, and has the best time of the runners for this race. But that was a long time ago.
Dashing Ceramibo will come up short because of The Magic Man factor, but even magic can’t help a horse that doesn’t seem to want to win. For me, I would rather bang my hard earned on the interestingly named Clever Beaver and, while on the subject of beaver, Hella Hedge.
Both might set the tone for what happens after the races at Yardbirds or the Blue Bar at the Four Seasons.
I’ll be looking at the three runners at the bottom of the weights- Superoi, Happy Rocky and Speedy Longwah, the latter two taking a voluntary promotion. Happy Rocky once looked to be a Valley specialist, then hit a flat spot from, perhaps, too much racing to prove this point. But going on its last start second, Rocky looks to be Happy again and back on the comeback trail though it will be tough to knock out Speedy Longwah.
BEST BET: RACE 6 SMART DECLARATION (10)
NEXT BEST: RACE 8 SPEEDY LONGWAH (12)
LONGSHOT RACE 7 CLEVER BEAVER (1)
THE SIX UP CHALLENGE!
Singer Jennifer Palor and drummer percussionist Davide Pasqualini, who wouldn’t know a Six Up from a 7-Up, take on The Three Amigos and other professional tipsters.
THE DAVIDE PASQUALINI SIX UP
THE JENNIFER PALOR SIX UP