The home team won two of the four races on Sunday's Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International card, highlighted by a third straight win for Good Ba Ba in the Mile while France picked up the other two victories, including the marquee event, the Hong Kong Cup.
Vision D'Etat, who was nearly scratched after picking up a skin infection before the race, captured the Cup under a confident ride by jockey Olivier Peslier. As the field turned into the straight at Sha Tin Racecourse, Peslier gave the signal to Vision D'Etat and quickly swept by the locally based odds-on favorite, Collection.
Winning trainer Eric Libaud said Vision D'Etat "will stay in training and we'll have to think about Dubai next." Libaud said he was concerned Saturday about the skin infection, apparently caused by a bump suffered in Vision D'Etat's stall. But when he saw his trackwork Sunday morning, Libaud said, he knew he would run well.
Darren Beadman, who rode Collection, called Vision D'Etat "impressive. He came past me with his ears pricked. But we have run right up to our best."
Presvis was third and trainer Luca Cumani said he also will "head to Dubai and decide which race to go for after the trials on the sand and grass."
Peslier said the late run was the game plan. "I didn't want to get to the lead too soon because I was worried he might try and stop in front. He kept fighting today.
While the Cup was the day's biggest purse, the Mile arguably provided the biggest story with Good Ba Ba taking a third straight running.
With Olivier Doleuze in the irons, Good Ba Ba ranged up on the outside in the stretch run and got by Happy Zero, who appeared to have the race well in hand. At the wire, it was Good Ba Ba in front by 1/2 length. Fellowship was third and Egyptian Ra completed a first-through-fourth sweep for Hong Kong horses.
Doleuze rode Good Ba Ba to victory in 2007 but Christophe Soumillon handled the reins in last year's win. "To be back on him again is like a dream," Doleuze said, adding he expects the 7-year-old, a graduate of the Hong Kong Sales, to return next year. "Now we can step him up in trip to maybe 2,000 meters because it took him a little longer than normal to really get going from the top of the straight," Doleuze said.
Derk Cruz, who took over Good Ba Ba's training this year from Andreas Schutz, said the historic challenge of a three-peat "did make it harder and created pressure for me. But we've done it and it feels awesome."
The 2,400-meter Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase went to the French-trained filly, Daryakana, owned by His Highness the Aga Khan and trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre. Gerald Mosse picked up the mount because of Christophe Lemaire's suspension after the Japan Cup. Mosse kept the unbeaten but lightly raced 3-year-old near the back of the back of the field behind a moderate pace, kicked her into gear and got the job done. At the wire, Spanish Moon was second-best and Kasbah Bliss rallied for third. "I knew she had a great turn of foot and I was always happy in the straight that I would get there," Mosse said. "This filly had a heart bigger than herself. She's among the best I've ridden."
Royer-Dupre said Daryakana will remain in training as a 4-year-old.
The Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint boasted one of the best international fields in recent memory. That didn't stop the home team from sweeping the first four positions, led by Sacred Kingdom, who reprised his victory of two years ago. Sent to the front as the field entered the straight, Sacred Kingdom held off the late, wide rally of One World to win by 1/2 length. Joy and Fun finished third and Green Birdie was fourth. California Flag, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in his last outing, took fifth.
"To be honest, I expected he would perform like that," said winning rider Brett Prebble. "But it's great when it all works out."
Officials of the Hong Kong Jockey Club reckoned the day's events a success.
"We have enjoyed a tremendous day's racing, one of the best we have ever staged here on this great occasion," said the club's CEO, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. "It all goes to show that Hong Kong racing is vibrant and thriving. It won't be easy to take this meeting to a higher level, but that's what we will strive for."
Meanwhile, back in the States, there were several races for 2-year-olds:
Turf Melody seemed to do just fine on the main track in Sunday's $200,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park. After breaking near the back of the 12-horse field, jockey Jeremy Rose worked his way up leaving the far turn, got toward the front along the outside and was just up in the final strides to win by a nose over Man Chester Man. Kitty's Turn finished third. Turf Melody, a Kentucky-bred colt by Maria's Mon, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:38.41. It was his third win in seven starts for trainer H. Graham Motion. Previously undefeated favorite Comedero faded to finish 11th.
At Hawthorne Race Course, Devient Behavior seized the early lead in Saturday's $100,000 Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity for state-breds, took back under urging from rider Timothy Thornton, then came again to win easily, by 2 1/4 lengths over Sheltoweee. Slewzoom was third. Devient Behavior, an Ecton Park colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:42.45. "He's a nice horse," Thornton said. "We've been having some trouble getting him to relax. But today it all worked out." The race is named for the former Illinois governor, also one of Illinois' leading Standardbred owners and breeders.
Red Rally did just that, three-wide, in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile at Fair Grounds, going by the leaders in the upper stretch and going on to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Devilish Due was second and Heavenville finished third. Red Rally, a Reformer Rally gelding, ran the 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:11.68 under Francisco Torres.
At Laurel Park, Our Commander was up in the final sixteenth to win Saturday's $50,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship for state-breds by 1/2 length over Not Abroad, who appeared to have the race under control early in the stretch run. Baileys Beach finished well to take third. Our Commander, a Tenpins gelding, ran the 7 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:31.78. Josean Ramirez rode for trainer Gary Capuano.
Sourdough Sam sat off a moderate pace in Saturday's $65,000 Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in California, circled the leaders on the turn and won a stretch duel with Our Minesweeper by 1 length. Swiss Memo was third at a big price. Sourdough Sam, a California-bred Decarchy gelding, ran the 1 mile on the all-weather track in 1:39.39. Inoel Beato rode for trainer Dean Pederson.
And in Saturday's $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie, for state-bred juvenile fillies, Speedacious battled for the lead, then dominated in the stretch, winning by 12 lengths. Sheza Sexy A.P. finished second, 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Oh Whata Holiday. Speedacious, a daughter of Yankee Gentleman, ran the 6 furlongs in the slop in 1:11.33 under Carlos Gonzalez. Brett Calhoun trains.
In other racing:
Rodman tattooed a sextet of rivals in Saturday's $100,000 Queens County Handicap, leading trainer Mike Hushion to see bigger things in the colt's future.
The Kentucky-bred Malibu Moon colt, named for a 1930s 6-day bicycle racer -- not the former Chicago Bulls star -- led from the early stages in the Grade III Queens County and won by 5 3/4 lengths over the favorite, Researcher. More Than a Reason, a longshot, completed the trifecta.
Rodman ran the 1 3/16 miles on the fast inner track in 1:57 for jockey Javier Castellano.
"These late developing horses are great," Hushion said. "They're fun and it looks like he's got some more fun in front of him." He said the Donn Handicap, 9 furlongs at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 6, could be among the possibilities for Rodman.
Mast Track went to the front quickly in Saturday's $100,000 Native Diver Handicap, opened up a comfortable lead and got home first, 1 1/2 lengths better than High Court Drama. Neko Bay was third. Lava Man, scheduled to make his return after a 17-month layoff, was a late scratch as trainer Doug O'Neill wasn't happy with the rainy weather. "There's no urgency to run," O'Neill said. "We've been waiting a long time. Now we'll wait until Santa Anita." Mast Track, formerly owned and trained by the late Bobby Frankel, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:50.53 under Rafael Bejarano. He is a 5-year-old son of Mizzen Mast.
Happy Me pressed the pace in Sunday's $125,000 New Mexico Racing Commission Handicap for state-bred fillies and mares, went to the lead on the turn and drew off to win by 2 3/4 lengths over Negotiablafections. Let the Musicbegin finished third. Happy Me, a 3-year-old Lesters Boy filly, ran the 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.53 under Ken Tohill.
Cattlemen Prospect was just up in the final jumps to beat pace-setting Gold Asure by a nose in Sunday's $125,000 Johnie L. Jamison Handicap for state-breds. Ocean Joe finished third. Cattleman Prospect, an 8-year-old Prospector Jones gelding, ran the 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:17.19 for jockey Alejandro Medellin.
Half of Saturday's Louisiana Champions Day card was called off because of threatening weather. Other than the 2-year-old races, the only stakes actually run was the $100,000 Ladies, captured by the aptly named Superior Storm. The 4-year-old Stormy Atlantic filly pressed the pace, took over turning for home and won by 1 1/2 lengths over Vickies In Town. Hisse was third. Superior Storm, with Robby Albarado riding, ran the 1 1/16 miles on the sloppy track in 1:48.44.
Tampa Bay Downs
Taletobetold was an appropriately named winner of Saturday's Opening Day feature, the $50,000 Lightning City Stakes for distaffers. Quickly out front, the 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Tale of the Cat mare opened up a daylight lead and then held on to win by 1/2 length over Easy Ashley. Kosmo's Buddy was third. Taletobetold, with Tony Farina in the irons, ran the 5 furlongs on "good" turf in 58.19 seconds.
Tie Rod rallied to the lead early in the stretch run in Saturday's $50,000 Hank Mills Sr. Handicap, then held on to win by a nose over Highland Games. Western Act was third at a big price and the favorite, Bingham, faded to finish fifth. Tie Rod, a 5-year-old, California-bred Old Topper gelding, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:35.62 under Daniel Vergara.
Timeless Fashion came around the leaders turning for home in Saturday's $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes and drew clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths. The early leader, Omaggio, held second, 1 length better than Valtrus. Timeless Fashion, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Sky Classic gelding, ran the 9 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:51.54 with Mames Lopez riding.
Happy Humor came from mid-pack in Saturday's $50,000 KLAQ Handicap, took the lead straightening out into the stretch and drew off to score by 2 lengths over American Classic. Gentsfinishfirst finished third. Happy Humor, a 5-year-old, Kentucky-bred Distorted Humor gelding, ran the 5 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:03.81 with Travis Wales up.