Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club
After nearly 10 months, the Hong Kong racing season has come
to come to the end. What started off to look like another year of dominance of
the reigning back-to-back Horse of the Year, Ambitious Dragon, took a turn for
the unexpected this spring. Before the end of February, Military Attack had
only won a single race in 6 tries, but was still considered a top contender in
the middle distance division. But trainer John Moore never lost faith in his 5
year old gelding and continued to enter him in Hong Kong graded stakes races.
This confidence would be rewarded with 4 straight stakes wins, with the
concluding two coming at the top international level.
The first of these 4 wins was the 2000m Hong Kong Gold Cup
(HK-G1), where we saw a new strategy employed by jockey Zac Purton.
Rather than using his late race turn of foot from the back of the pack, Purton
kept Military Attack toward the front of the pack in a stalking position. The
change in running style was instantly rewarded with a 2 ½ length score over the
top middle distance horses Hong Kong has to offer. As time would show, this win
was no fluke.
Next up for Military Attack was the 1800m Premier Plate
Handicap (HK-G3). His win in the Hong Kong Gold Cup did not go unnoticed by the
racing stewards who rewarded that effort with the top weight of 133lbs. The top
impost, nor a target on his back was not enough to stop him, and he went on to
a ½ length score. Things were looking good for the Irish bred son of Oratorio.
The third race in the winning streak was the crown jewel of
the spring racing schedule in Hong Kong, the 2000m APQEII Cup (G1). This is one
of two international Group-1 races offered by the Hong Kong Jockey Club during
the second half of the racing season. Here he again utilized his new stalking
running style and exploded out of the pack mid stretch to win by 1 ¾ lengths over
a field that included Sajjhaa, Igugu, Eishin Flash, California Memory, and
John Moore now realized his blooming star had reached
unprecedented levels. Knowing his horse was hotter than the approaching Hong
Kong summer, he decided his form was still good enough to try and win something
he had never won before. And so Moore entered the gelding into what would
become the most dominating win he has seen in his career.
The Singapore Airlines International Cup is a perfectly
timed international Group-1 race that draws some of the top middle distance
horses from Dubai, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan. This year’s edition drew the
company of globetrotting Grade-1 winners Hunter’s Light, Red Cadeaux and
Meandre. Of course the same international quarantine rules applied to invading Military
Attack, as did the climate of the hosting country Singapore.
Set off from the 4th post in the field of
thirteen, he was settled mid pack on the rail by regular rider Zac Purton.
Coming into the stretch, it looked like he would not be able to get a clear
shot at the wire, but when a small hole opened, Purton hit the “go button” on
Military Attack, and he responded by looking like he got shot out of a cannon.
Instantly opening a 5 length lead, Purton looked around, confused as to what
had just happened. Knowing he had the race in the bag, he geared down Military
Attack to a gallop for the final 100m of the race and crossed the wire 4
lengths clear of the 2nd place horse, stopping the clock in a speedy
1:59.58. This win locked Horse of the Year honors for Military Attack.
Plans for the champ have not yet been determined for next
year, but his relaxed training (which can be viewed daily at the HKJC website)
lately suggests he is receiving a breather before ramping up for a title defense.
Hong Kong racing as whole was tremendously successful this season
with an expected $92+ billion (USD) betting handle, a 9% increase over the
previous season. In addition to this, discussions for a “commingling” betting
plan with Australia for simulcasts of Hong Kong races down under. It is
expected to bring an additional $500 million of betting from only a select
handful of races that are approved for simulcasting. This plan would go into
effect for the 2013/14 season if approved by both countries.
The full list of honors for Hong Kong horses went to the
Horse of the Year: Military Attack
Most Popular Horse of the Year: Military Attack
Champion Sprinter: Lucky Nine
Champion Miler: Ambitious Dragon
Champion Middle Distance Horse: Military Attack
Champion Stayer: California Memory
Champion Griffin (Juvenile): All You Wish
Champion Jockey: Douglas Whyte