HONG KONG’S ONLY Group One between now and the big international fixture in December, Sha Tin’s Champion & Chater Cup, produced something of a surprise with Ponfield, thrice a top level winner in Chile, landing the spoils from Columbus County and favourite Exultant who was seeking a third consecutive victory in the 2400m feature.
He was partnered by an emotional Karis Teetan who was grieving the death of close friend Nooresh Juglall in a race fall in Mauritius the previous weekend. “I’m really glad I booted this one home. It’s been a tough week. I needed this and I want to dedicate this to my wife Xaviere.
She’s been by my side and given me confidence every day,” he said. “If I did not have my wife by my side, I might not have been here and she was there, kept on pushing me and gave me confidence. “I had horrible news where we lose one of my best friends and my brother in racing and I take it pretty hard.
This win makes it a little bit better, but we still miss Nooresh. “It’s been a long time since I had one of these big ones, but this feels good. You need to just keep working hard and it will come.” Teetan tracked Exultant and Zac Purton behind early leader Time Warp before mounting his challenge in the straight, clawing his way past the five time Group One winner before withstanding a late challenge from Joao Moreira and Columbus County.
Teetan added: “At the 700m mark, I knew this horse would go right through the line because he literally dropped down a gear and started to motor. “But you know with Joao you have a hard battle. In these big ones, he’s had the better of me a few times and I was like ‘C’mon Joao, not today’ and it pays off.”
Dual Derby winning handler Tony Millard celebrated his first Group One triumph in Hong Kong since Ambitious Dragon’s 2013 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup. He said: “We did a good 1800m workout and if any of you saw it, it was unbelievable. He broke 60 seconds for 1000m and covered the last 400m in 21.8 and Karis was hanging onto him.
“I said to Karis after that, ‘I don’t care how good they are, he’s ready’. Quite clearly, a lot of older horses are finished now so that puts him in top spot as the best staying horse in Hong Kong.” Earlier on the card, sprinting sensation Courier Wonder extended his unbeaten record to five at Sha Tin, defeating his elders in the 1200m Group 3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap.
Stepping up in grade as the least experienced runner in the race, the 3yo juvenile capped his perfect debut season with a classy victory against a collection of the circuit’s best sprinters, including Computer Patch and Sky Field, second and third in last month’s course and distance Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Partnered by Joao Moreira, the Sacred Falls gelding broke cleanly from gate six to settle in the box seat, before taking over at the 200m mark for a cosy victory over Stronger and Sky Field who both made late progress albeit when the race was basically over.
“In the straight, I pulled him out and he dashed home as he always does. Good horses like him give jockeys an amazing feeling,” Moreira said. “I’m very excited for next season, he’s the type of horse that everyone dreams to have. “We had a great opportunity to learn a bit more today, the pace was really genuine so he had a chance to settle behind others.
“When we first started turning he was a bit lost and wanted to run out today, shying away from other horses, but as we progressed he started to relax, which is fantastic.” December and the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint, over the same Sha Tin 1200m, is the ultimate target and winning trainer John Size added: “There are no races I would want to run him now and I think he probably showed he was looking for a break anyway.
“He has talent and we just have to manage it, keep him out of harm’s way and then turn him loose on a race track. Hopefully the Hong Kong Sprint is his race.”