Any questions about Lucky Sweynesse loosening his grip on the world’s best sprinter mantle were swept aside when Manfred Man’s speedster surged to victory in the HK$26 million Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
It was a redemptive triumph for Lucky Sweynesse, who had no luck in last year’s sprint when he was trapped with nowhere before finishing sixth behind Wellington after a tiring Lim’s Kosciuszko went back through the field.
Momentarily it looked like Lucky Sweynesse was again in need of a big slice of luck at the top of the straight when Zac Purton had to get off heels and hook him around runners to get a clear passage up the straight but he quickly accelerated to score from the fast-finishing outsider Lucky With You.
2022 winner Wellington finished third.
Hong Kong horses filled the first five positions with Victor The Winner fourth and Duke Wai fifth. And what a difference year makes.
2023 Hong Kong Sprint Replay – Lucky Sweynesse | T: Manfred Man | J: Zac Purton
“That’s horse racing,” Purton said after the win.
“I had the run inside Victor The Winner but when James (McDonald) went for him, he shifted in and hampered me a little bit but he (Lucky Sweynesse) accelerated so quickly, I was able to come out across his heels and he had his chance from there – he did what he had to do. I love him.”
Purton said Lucky Sweynesse deserved the win.
“He’s been our best sprinter for the last year, and he was able to atone for last year,” said Purton, who predicted pre-race Lucky Sweynesse was back to his best after a relatively modest start to the season.
“I could feel in the morning his trackwork had improved, and his action was getting a little bit better.
“His all-around demeanour in the morning was getting back to where it was last season. I could see he was blossoming at the right time.”
It was Purton’s 11th overall Group One win at the Hong Kong International Races.
It was his third victory in the Hong Kong Sprint after a pair off wins by Aerovelocity in 2014 and 2016.
After resuming with two seconds, the gelding scored a narrow victory in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin last month.
But the doubters still questioned whether the five-year-old gelding would return to his absolute best, who visibly eased up over the final 50 metres.
Wellington, now under the care of Jamie Richards, hasn’t won a race in seven attempts since winning last December’s big sprint.
It was the gelding’s second run back after finishing 10 of 16 in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes (1200m) at Ascot in June.
Europe’s best sprinter Highfield Princess, a four-time G1 winner in three different countries, was aiming to be the first raider to win the sprint since Japanese champion Danon Smash’s 2020 success.
Coming off a last start win in the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (1000m), the John Quinn-trained British star was faced with the obstacles of both a European and a mare never previously winning the race.
The British sprinting queen bypassed last month’s Breeders Cup at Santa Anita in favor of the Hong Kong assignment for trainer John Quinn as she aimed to add the Asian conqueror title to her list of credits, but she finished sixth.
Lucky Sweynesse was sent off as the raging favorite last year and it was repeated again this time around.
Victor The Winner and Jasper Krone were both in the traditional roles in the front early, with Lucky Sweynesse positioned not far off them.
When Lucky Sweynesse got clear running, he surged past Victor The Winner, to score by three quarters of a length from the fast finishing Lucky With You, while Wellington was a length and three quarter away in third.
Victor The Winner was a further two lengths from the winner in fourth. The winning time was 1m 09.25s.
Lucky With You’s jockey Andrea Atzeni said the gelding ran a blinder.
“He finished off quite nicely and he was beaten by a champion,” he said.