Hong Kong’s Frankie Lor, in just his second season of training, today may well have announced himself as a likely future champion of his home town when Glorious Forever claimed the flagship HK$28 million Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
The win, of course, followed Lor’s earlier success with Mr Stunning in the Hong Kong Sprint and this momentous double may point to an imminent changing of the guard on a day when all four feature races fell – for the first time – to Hong Kong trainers.
Retirement could loom at the end of next season for John Moore, who won the Hong Kong Cup while Tony Cruz, who had the Hong Kong Vase winner, is nearer to the end than start of his career.
In just 18 months, indeed in less than two hours this afternoon, Lor managed to train as many Hong Kong International Races winners as his mentor John Size and only Cruz, Moore and Ricky Yiu have more among Hong Kong-based trainers (at the time of the wins).
Glorious Forever, ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, defied his elder brother Time Warp and two highly credentialled Japanese challengers to lead throughout in the Cup in a performance which fulfilled the promise he’s shown for some time.
The Archipenko gelding held out late-closing Japanese filly Deirdre to win by a length with his brother and regular recent adversary Time Warp a short-head back in third place.
“This is special. Yes today is amazing for me, I can’t believe it. For me, it’s my dream to get more good horses and win the big races and to win these two races today is amazing,” Lor said.
After the much discussed lead-up race, the Jockey Club Cup when Glorious Forever and Time Warp attacked each other in front, Lor knew he’d have to adopt a different tactic.
“I talked to Silvestre yesterday and said ‘if he jumped good try to take the lead and if Time Warp pushed too hard then he could take the sit behind him’. We drew one and Time Warp seven so that made a difference,” Lor said.
Three-time British champion jockey de Sousa is no stranger to major race success but this was his first Group 1 in his temporary home and was achieved with clinical precision, aligned to Lor’s instructions. A slow first 800 metres in 50.56s was vital in securing the all-the-way win.
“Everything was in my favour,” de Sousa said, “the draw was perfect for riding a horse who could be one or two in the run. Everything went to the plan.
“I didn’t want to overdo it in front but to make sure Time Warp didn’t come around, I had to make sure we were going a true gallop. I won the battle for the first 300 metres and I was going so well at the 800 (metres), I thought to myself they would have to be very good to pick him up; it would have to be one of the Europeans because I didn’t think Time Warp would come again.”
It’s likely de Sousa meant the “Japanese” rather than the Europeans as the top two in the market were Sungrazer and Deirdre and the latter steamed home from the back but the early fractions said she faced a herculean task. “She travelled well behind Sungrazer in the run and picked up well and gave her all to the finish,” said jockey Christophe Lemaire.
Time Warp was brave in third given he was unable to take up his favoured front-running role: Trainer Tony Cruz said: “The other horse was really shoving up to get the lead and Zac (Purton) said he couldn’t beat him for speed so sat second. We tried to go to the front but when he couldn’t there was no point pushing him.”
Purton said of the race: “It was a good race – he has run really well. I was proud of him.”
Lor would not be drawn on immediate plans for Glorious Forever but certainly didn’t rule out an international mission. “I’ll need to talk to the owners first and I’ll need to have a good look at the overseas programmes so it’s a maybe,” Lor said.
The last word was left to de Sousa who, when asked whether he would consider a full time rather than four month contract in Hong Kong, said: “Yeah, why not…why not.”