A jubilant Me Tsui could easily have been mistaken as the winning trainer in the moments after the Korea Sprint in Seoul this afternoon (Sunday, 9 September), leading celebrations after Fight Hero came within a head of pulling off a remarkable victory for Hong Kong in the Korean Group 1 feature.
Ridden by Derek Leung, Fight Hero lived up to his name with a fighting effort on the sand at Seoul Racecourse. Stuck five and six deep with no cover from gate 13, he produced a sustained run alongside Japanese galloper Moanin down the centre of the straight.
While the Kanichiro Fujii-ridden Moanin looked to have the measure of Fight Hero for much of the home stretch, Hong Kong’s charge was in for the battle, attempting to match strides with his better-performed rival as they locked horns in a mesmerising duel.
At the line, though, it was Group 1 February Stakes (1600m) winner Moanin who scored another feature triumph.
“I’m so happy with the horse,” Leung said.
“He jumped much sharper than before, he tried his heart out and I think that was the best he’s ever gone. It was just the gate, that’s all.”
Tsui declared that he had arrived at Seoul Racecourse this morning believing that it was “impossible” for Fight Hero to win, hoping for a place at best.
“This performance was far better than I could have expected,” Tsui said.
“With the wide draw and the track condition, which makes it hard for horses coming from behind like him, I honestly thought that to win would be mission impossible. But together, my stable team, the jockey and the horse almost made the impossible happen. I have finished second but it feels like I have won, I am so happy.”
A disappointed Leung felt that he was lucky to stay aboard Fight Hero after an incident at the 800m in which France’s King Malpic shifted out, bumping Moanin and causing Fight Hero to stumble – an incident which almost led to a post-race objection from the rider.
“We didn’t have much luck from the bad draw and it’s a shame that he was out there,” Leung said.
“In the race, on the corner, we bumped twice with the winner and they were quite serious bumps, especially the second time. That pressure meant that he couldn’t hold a position and he had no cover. I think just a little bit of cover could have allowed him to win the race but he still ran so well.
With Fight Hero performing strongly on the deep Seoul surface, Tsui is eyeing off another potential overseas campaign later in the season for the Footstepsinthesand gelding, a plan endorsed by Leung.
“I will take him back to Hong Kong now and give him a little break, he obviously goes well fresh,” Tsui said.
“There aren’t too many dirt races for him now with his rating but I will just see what comes up. I would love to take him to Dubai because he is a better 1400m horse, he just finds the first 400m of a 1200m race too fast. Now that he’s gone well on a deep surface, I am more keen to go to Meydan, which Derek says is also quite deep.
Leung added: “Get him out to 1400m on that track and I think you’d see something really nice.”
Japan made it a second clean sweep in a row when defending champion London Town crushed his rivals in the Korea Cup (1800m), taking the feature by 15 lengths.