Horse Racing
Rebel’s Romance sweeps to Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup victory

By Leo Schlink
26/05/2024 20:04

William Buick drives Rebel’s Romance clear.
William Buick drives Rebel’s Romance clear.

William Buick declared Rebel’s Romance a “real international superstar” after the globe-trotting stayer added the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) to a bulging collection of victories at Sha Tin on Sunday (26 May).

Pitted against seven quality Hong Kong stayers, Rebel’s Romance surged to a two-length win over Tony Cruz-trained pair Five G Patch and La City Blanche under jockey William Buick to provide Charlie Appleby’s first win in Hong Kong and become the first internationally trained horse to win the feature.

Owned by Godolphin, Rebel’s Romance’s prowess for travelling and winning was on full display as he clinched a fifth Group 1, having also won at the highest level in Germany (twice), the United States of America and, more recently, the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) in Dubai in March.

“He’s done it really well. You always respect the local horses here in Hong Kong and obviously he (Rebel’s Romance) had to travel over here and everything else. The team have done a great job with him, I thought he looked magnificent beforehand, as he always does,” Buick said.

“The race kind of went the way I hoped it would and it suited him. He’s become a very uncomplicated horse and he’s a real international superstar.”

Rebel’s Romance wins the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup.

Buick, 35, settled Rebel’s Romance in second place, a horse off the fence, behind leader Moments In Time, and allowed the Dubawi gelding to find his rhythm. When the pressure was applied and the field compacted approaching the 800m, Rebel’s Romance took time to respond.

“He’s a horse who likes to get into his stride, he relaxes beautifully and gets into a nice rhythm. He probably came under pressure sooner than I expected but he was just getting himself organised really,” Buick said. “He is a very versatile horse.”

“Hong Kong is a special place. I’ve been coming here for many years now and it’s tough to win at any level. It’s great to come here with a horse like Rebel’s Romance and even better to win.”

Rebel’s Romance clocked 2m 25.62s for the trip.

Appleby indicated Rebel’s Romance – now the winner of 13 of 19 starts – would head to the United States of America before possibly returning for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) at Sha Tin in December.

Team Rebel’s Romance celebrates Group 1 success.
Team Rebel’s Romance celebrates Group 1 success.

“I’m delighted for Sheikh Mohammed and Team Godolphin to have this horse travel the way he has. He’s been to America, he’s been to Qatar, Dubai, Germany and now Hong Kong, which has always been on our bucket list to try and win a race here and we’re delighted to have the right horse,” Appleby said.

“Having the right horse in Rebel’s Romance, we felt he was a horse we could be competitive with and hopefully in the near future, for sure, we’ll be looking forward to finding horses to coming over here.

“He’s a gelded son of Dubawi, he loves his travels. He’s a professional now and he’s done plenty of travelling now. He prefers to be on a plane than actually in his stable.

“The whole concept of Godolphin was built on being an international stable and hopefully dining at the top table as fortunately as we are today. Hong Kong racing is one of the pinnacles of racing and to come here, you have to have the right horse.”

Douglas Whyte said dual Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup winner Russian Emperor’s racing future would be discussed after he finished seventh under Hugh Bowman.

“Hughy’s report was that they went a good gallop from the get-go and he had nothing to drag him into the race. They ran two seconds quicker than last year. He’s run a nice race and he’s probably come to the end of his career now. I’ll have a discussion with the owner and possibly look at retiring him,” Whyte said.

Zac Purton dominated the undercard with a quartet – Smart Beauty, Divano, Bottomuptogether and Call Me Glorious – as Francis Lui slotted a double to have 59 wins for the season, matching the tally of long-time leader Pierre Ng.

Zac Purton posted a four-timer.
Zac Purton posted a four-timer.

Hong Kong International Sale graduate Smart Beauty notched his third win for Tony Cruz, clinching the Class 5 Helene Super Star Handicap (1600m) under Purton before the six-time Hong Kong champion jockey logged a double aboard Frankie Lor-trained Bottomuptogether in the Class 4 Indigenous Handicap (1000m).

Divano provided the third of Purton’s haul with victory in the Class 4 Makarpura Star Handicap (1200m).

“He (Divano) did a lot wrong, he was moving around a lot in the gates and was slow to jump, he was on the back foot to hold his position (from barrier one) – with topweight (135lb), it’s not easy to do,” Purton said.

Purton made it four with Call Me Glorious in the Class 3 Oriental Express Handicap (1200m) for Lui, who has five fewer second placings than Ng for the season.

Jimmy Ting-trained Thunder Blink maintained his unbeaten run with a storming finish to land the Pakistan Plate (1200m) for Griffins. With only four runners behind him on the home turn, the Ribchester colt was taken to the middle of the track by Jerry Chau to surge home in 21.95s for the last 400m to deny Santori by a short head.

Ting also struck with Huge Wave, who triumphed in the Class 3 River Verdon Handicap (1400m) under Alexis Badel to earn a PP Bonus of HK$1.5 million as well as HK$1.041 million in prizemoney.

Chau also made it a double when Benno Yung’s Top Peak finished powerfully to claim the Class 4 Exultant Handicap (1400m).

Awesome Fluke – who won the 2023 G2 W.A.T.C. Derby (2400m) as Awesome John for John O’Shea – claimed his first Hong Kong victory in the Class 3 Vengeance Of Rain Handicap (2000m) as Andrea Atzeni, who slotted his 40th win of the season before Dennis Yip’s Bright Inheritance shocked at 164/1 under Matthew Chadwick to land the Class 4 Viva Pataca Handicap (1600m).

Hong Kong racing continues at Sha Tin on Wednesday night (29 May).