Admire Mars and an inspired Christophe Soumillon came to the fore in what was an emotional occasion for the Japanese racing industry in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin today (Sunday, 8 December).
It was not, perhaps, the result that the home town audience yearned for, with the hat-trick seeking Beauty Generation looking as if he would defy his advancing years when cruising into the lead at the 400-metre mark.
Unfortunately for the massed supporters of John Moore’s hugely popular performer, the tank began to empty almost as soon as Zac Purton began to ask Beauty Generation for one final ounce of effort, while a surging pair of rivals were making alarming progress.
Admire Mars, under sustained pressure from his Belgian-born pilot down the home straight, poked his chestnut head in front with only 100 metres remaining and passed the line half a length clear of the advancing Waikuku and Joao Moreira.
The winner carries the recognisable blue and white silks of Riichi Kondo, one of Japan’s most significant owners, who died only a few weeks ago. His widow attended the presentation ceremony, although the horse was still registered under her late husband’s name, and trainer Yasuo Tomomichi, who was wearing the livery of the owner in his suit and tie, was also holding back the tears.
Soumillon said: “He was probably one of the biggest private owners in the Japanese racing industry, he was somebody very famous who loved horses.
“We could see his colours from a long time ago, they won nearly everywhere. We had the bad news a few weeks ago so I’m really proud and happy to take these colours so high today.”