Simply Brilliant was just that, defying an exacting wide on-speed run, to take today’s (Sunday 25 November) featured Class 1 The Chevalier Cup (1600m) to provide trainer Frankie Lor and jockey Alexis Badel with their most significant wins in Hong Kong.
The victory brought up a double for Frenchman Badel, who was appropriately the shining Knight on a dull, wintry Chevalier-sponsored day. He said he felt right at home: “Ah, the French weather. It’s good for me,” he said after his second win on a rain-soaked Sha Tin afternoon which also saw him win the Class 2 Chevalier Construction Handicap on Wishful Thinker.
Simply Brilliant may have covered ground but was “in a rhythm” according to his rider and was able to repel a late thrust from What Else But You to win by a neck in a race which has been won by such luminaries as Electronic Unicorn, Beauty Flash and Designs On Rome.
“I was keen to ride this horse,” Badel said,”I asked Frankie (Lor) about him early. I hadn’t ridden him before but I know him and I wanted to give him a little space which I think he needs. I moved out a little bit on him. I wasn’t expecting to be three wide but he was relaxed and travelling well and the track was getting sticky inside, so I wasn’t too worried. He was very tough.”
Trainer Lor, who threatens to challenge the dominance of the old guard in just his second season, knows the value of winning on the bigger stages as well as chalking up the routine winners which he’s certainly managed to do thus far.
“You need the horses to win at the better level but that’s what I want to be able to do,” said Lor who will have the chance to surpass today’s triumph when he saddles up Mr Stunning and Glorious Forever in the Hong Kong International Races on 9 December.
In the meantime, Lor is hopeful that Simply Brilliant can continue to improve and make his mark at Group level. “We probably have to look at the better races now. He’ll go up in the ratings after today but I’d thought, early in the season, he’d made some improvement and hopefully there’s a little more there. How much, I don’t know but we will see,” Lor said.
The four-year-old, by Frankel, has had just 15 starts in the UK and Hong Kong combined and this win came in a race which most observers assessed as having great depth. Who’s to say he might not eventually graduate to international competition given that the one-two in last year’s Chevalier Cup – Fifty Fifty and Exultant – will compete in this year’s HKIR.
Rise High, Rattan, Dinozzo and Northern Superstar, the last named entered for the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup, finished third to sixth respectively and each performed satisfactorily given that the pattern of racing looked to favour those on speed until late in the card.
Trainer Tony Millard was pleased with the performance of the dual South African Group 1 winner Northern Superstar, who hadn’t raced since December 2017.
“It was a very good run. He finished off very strongly just with hands and heels. He was three wide and really it was an amazing run for his first of the season and after a year off. We’ll go for the big race (Hong Kong Cup) and we’ll see. Two-week is not ideal but we’ll do our best. Whatever happens, he is going to have a say in what happens for the rest of the season,” Millard said.
More than wishful thinking for Gibson
Wishful Thinker, the only horse to have beaten nominal LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint favourite Hot King Prawn, continued his winning run and that of trainer Richard Gibson in today’s Chevalier Construction Handicap (1000m) at Sha Tin.
The lightly raced and highly promising five-year-old, who inflicted Hot King Prawn’s sole defeat back in April, made it back to back wins in impressive fashion – especially given that he was back to the 1000m straight course after swooping late, around the circle, to win over 1200m at Happy Valley on 7 November.
It was a win which delighted his trainer. “To win from that draw (one) under these conditions was an exceptional effort and Alexis (Badel), who gave him a dream ride, said he won with something in hand. The horse is in magnificent condition, he was the clear pick of the paddock,” Gibson said.
“Yes, I think so,” was Gibson’s response when asked if he expected the horse to keep improving. “It takes a very good horse to do what he did today and we’ll push on with him. He is, after all, the only horse to have beaten Hot King Prawn.”
Gibson said that 1200m was ‘probably’ Wishful Thinker’s best distance but that his immediate target was likely to be again at 1000m in the G3 Bauhinia Sprint Trophy on 6 January.
Gibson, earlier this month, notched up his 200th winner in Hong Kong but missed that 10 November meeting as he was in Europe to celebrate his father’s 80th birthday. However, today, he said such training milestones were not significant to him.” I never look back. Don’t have a (winning) photo in the house. I just hope the next 200 come faster,” he said.
Doubles for Cruz and Teetan
The opening two races went to the Tony Cruz – Karis Teetan combine, as Multimillion took the first and Supreme Witness the second. Both started favourite, carried the number two saddlecloth and led throughout. The doubles took Cruz to the top of the trainers’ premiership and Teetan to within one of jockeys’ race leader Zac Purton before the titleholder re-established a margin of two with victory on Romantic Chef in race four.