Rainfall hit Sha Tin this afternoon (Monday, 30 January) – defying the weather forecast – and Peniaphobia took full advantage in the HK$8 million G2 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m). Last season’s Hong Kong Champion Sprinter relished the cut underfoot and made the most of an untroubled lead to see off hot favourite Lucky Bubbles.
It was a second win in the race for the Tony Cruz-trained sprinter. The bay took the spoils two years ago when the contest was staged over 1000m.
“He began very well – he just showed effortless speed at the start,” winning jockey Neil Callan said. “Tony said he was the only front-runner in the field and that was my plan, to just let him roll up into position on the front end rather than push him. He did that with minimum fuss because he jumped so cleanly. I was able to cross them and get to the rail.”
Peniaphobia, whose tally of four course and distance wins also includes the 2015 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, was left alone up front as Aerovelocity, successful in the latest edition of that December showpiece, settled for a tracking berth, one spot off the fence.
“I didn’t take a pull on him I was just talking to him in his ear, ‘woah, boy, woah’, and when I threw the reins at him he was coming back underneath me. Nobody pestered me for it so I knew I’d have a big kick in the straight,” Callan continued.
As the 8/1 chance turned for home, Brett Prebble began to make his move atop the 1.6 hotpot, Lucky Bubbles. Try as he might – and try he did – the highly-touted Sebring five-year-old was unable to overhaul the front-runner despite out-kicking Peniaphobia through the final 400m, with a closing split of 22.29s to the winner’s 22.44s. Lucky Bubbles was three quarters of a length shy at the line; the winning time was 1m 09.15s.
“I didn’t see any horse coming at me until the last 50 (metres) or last 100 so I wasn’t concerned,” Callan said. “I didn’t even look up at the big screen and normally you would have a little peek. Tony said beforehand, ‘if he’s going for you when you go at the 300, try not to hit him, don't hit him’, so I was just throwing my reins at him and flicking him down the shoulder. Every time I flicked him down the shoulder he gave me a little bit and I just thought ‘that’s enough, he’ll get me to the line’. The last 50, I could see something coming but my horse was giving me plenty.”
Peniaphobia finished second and third in the last two editions of the G1 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan, and, with this year’s edition of that race (25 March) also now upped to 1200m from 1000m, Cruz has given the Dandy Man gelding an entry.
“I’ve entered him for the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai but it’s up to the owner whether he goes, so we’ll talk and see what he wants to do,” he said.
“The going helped today, he likes that ground and he’s better at the 1200 (metres) than the 1000 – and also Aerovelocity carrying five pounds more than the field, that was an advantage for us. Everything went to plan, he got to the front and they couldn’t catch him – it’s hard for those horses to close when the going is like this, it helps a front-runner.”
The win was a fifth Centenary Sprint Cup success for Cruz, while Peniaphobia became the sixth dual winner in the past 19 editions (Eagle Regiment, Sacred Kingdom, Scintillation, Silent Witness, Best Of The Best).
Prebble felt that the steady rainfall had been a factor in Lucky Bubbles’ defeat. Francis Lui’s charge was a slightly unlucky second in last month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint at his previous start.
“I think the ground might have been a factor, he’s got a lovely big action and he wasn’t as brilliant on top of that,” Prebble said. “We didn’t expect it – the rain – it came very late.
“He ran super, though. The leader had a lovely, cushy time out in front and my fella had to do the donkey work to get up to him – the ground definitely takes a bit of zip out of his sprint. But he’s brave as brave – he ran super and he had every chance but circumstances beat him.”
The John Moore-trained Not Listenin’tome kept on for third under Tommy Berry, a further length and a quarter back.
“He went super,” Berry said. “It would be nice to have a day when there’s no Peniaphobia and he can roll along in front, because he just sticks at the same speed.”
The Ricky Yiu-trained Blizzard missed the kick and raced last of the eight runners but closed off with the fastest final 400m split of all (22.12s) to finish two and a half lengths fifth.
The Paul O’Sullivan-trained Aerovelocity faded out in the stretch to finish last under Zac Purton.
Source: Hong Kong Jockey Club (David Morgan)