Horse Racing
Hong Kong has mixed returns as Almond Eye rules Dubai

By David Morgan in Dubai
31/03/2019 02:16

Southern Legend on his way to the start of the G1 Dubai Turf.
Southern Legend on his way to the start of the G1 Dubai Turf.

Hong Kong’s four raiders at the Dubai World Cup meeting at Meydan on Saturday (30 March) delivered a mixed bag of the good, the fair and the disappointing.

As Almond Eye reigned imperiously over her G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) rivals, Hong Kong’s Southern Legend plugged home sixth, 10 lengths behind Japan’s super star filly and a couple of placings behind where trainer Caspar Fownes had fixed his expectations.

“To run sixth was a bit disappointing for me,” Fownes said. “I felt he would be in the first four.”

Japan hogged the first two places: Vivlos, the mare who won this race under Joao Moreira in 2017, and who was supposed to retire after a fine second to Beauty Generation in December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin, chased her illustrious compatriot to within a length and a quarter.

Southern Legend was only a neck behind Vivlos when third in Sha Tin’s premier mile contest; tonight, he was about nine lengths her inferior.

“His form in Hong Kong puts him right there with the second horse, they finished together in December,” Fownes said.

Zac Purton attempted to make the most of Southern Legend’s draw against the fence, breaking smartly to race at the fore. But when Century Dream soon went by to lead the field, Hong Kong’s hope slipped back to midfield: the bay lacked verve and plugged home without threatening.

“He wasn’t travelling, he was never on the bit so it was always going to be hard for him to finish,” a disappointed Purton said as he carried his saddle back to weigh in.

Fownes reported that there was no immediate reason for last season’s SIN G1 Kranji Mile winner’s sub-par run.

“He looked fine straight after the race when I checked him,” the handler said.

Honest Gold Mount

Gold Mount finishes fourth in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup.
Gold Mount finishes fourth in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup.

Richard Gibson’s twin assault on the Dubai World Cup meeting ended without victory but there was nothing inglorious, nor disappointing, about Gold Mount’s honest run in the G2 Dubai Gold Cup (3200m).

The six-year-old settled at the rear in his first race at beyond 2400m and kept on gamely under Ryan Moore to claim fourth place, behind the race’s big three contenders. G1 Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter added another important win to his resume, holding his in-form stablemate Ispolini by a length and a quarter, with G1-winning French raider Call The Wind third.

“He’s been beaten by three good horses; I’m very happy with his run,” Moore said upon dismounting.

Gibson, too, was pleased with the G1-placed galloper who was keen entering the track but relaxed once he reached the starting gate.

“First time over the trip, it was a very positive experience for the horse. In a top-class field like that he has performed well so I’m pleased with him,” the trainer said.

Alexis Badel endured a frustrating run on Gibson’s Wishful Thinker in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m), though. The five-year-old raced at the back of the field and was found wanting for a turn-of-pace when Godolphin’s Blue Point kicked for home and ultimately sealed victory from the US raiders Belvoir Bay and Stormy Liberal.

“The horse ran well, he tried very hard but, unfortunately, I had an outside gate (13) and this time I didn’t have good leaders on the outside. I moved in and tried to follow the pace but I was never in the race,” Badel said.

“He ran alright but it’s quite different from Hong Kong: the pace wasn’t very fast and the race went in a progression. He needs more pace on to finish better.”

Wishful Thinker passed the post seventh, one place outside the money and eight and three-quarter lengths behind the Charlie Appleby-trained winner, who clocked 1m 08.39s.

Tsui’s Hero runs his race

Trainer Me Tsui and jockey Joao Moreira were in agreement that Fight Hero had run as well as he could in finishing sixth in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m, dirt).

“Sixth or fifth was what I expected because in the morning I saw the dirt, it was very sticky,” Tsui said.

The veteran was outpaced in a race with plenty of speed up front but fought down the straight under Moreira, passing a couple of rivals to cross the line six and a quarter lengths behind the worthy winner X Y Jet. The US-trained victor stopped the clock at 1m 10.75s.

“I just think he found the competition a little bit too hard. I’m satisfied with his performance and so is the trainer,” Moreira said of Fight Hero.

“He never really travelled during the race, as we expected, but I had to work longer than I actually thought I would have to. Being able to go past horses indicates that he did bring his best, he just probably found the competition too tough.”

Fight Hero was a close second in the KOR G1 Korea Sprint (1200m, sand) at Seoul last September and that could be an option again but Tsui is not making any firm plans yet.

“It depends on the horse, we’ll see how he is. I won’t push him too hard, I want him to be happy. He’s eight years old so it might be too much for him – Korea is an option but we could retire him instead,” he said.

The night’s feature, the G1 Dubai World Cup (2000m, dirt), went to Godolphin’s Thunder Snow, who became the contest’s first two-time winner.