Jaguar Mail, A Shin Forward finish fourth in HK Vase, Mile
Sunday, December 12, at Sha Tin Racecourse, Japan runners Jaguar Mail and A Shin Forward took on the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races as they represented Japan in the yearend group 1 spectacular. Both horses, Jaguar Mail in the Vase and A Shin Forward in the Mile, turned in impressive performances as they battled to hard-won fourth-place finishes.
Jaguar Mail, with Australian rider Craig Williams up for Noriyuki Hori, took on the Hong Kong Vase for his third time. The field, reduced to 13 after Joshua Tree was scratched, saw Jaguar Mail in the rear, then moving up to ninth position down the backstretch of the 2,400-meter turf race. Around the bend for home, Williams held the 6-year-old son of Jungle Pocket on the rail and was able to get a clear run as the one-track opened up. With room to run, Jaguar Mail gained until about 30 meters out, then looked spent as he was caught and overtaken on the far outside by Melbourne Cup winner Americain.
Winning the race was UAE-based Mastery under Lanfranco Dettori for trainer Saeed bin Suroor. The 4-year-old Mastery held the third position from the break, stayed within easy reach of the front, and moved up directly behind the front-running Mighty High around the turn, then took the lead from the stretch. From the 300-meter mark, Mastery stepped into high gear and left the rest of the field behind to win by a two-and-a-half-length margin in a time of 2:27.69.
"He was traveling very well coming into the straight. When I eased him out I knew he was going so well that he would outsprint all of them," Dettori said of Mastery.
A Shin Forward
Williams said the Vase pace was "slower than I'd thought it would be. Because of our position in the rear, we weren't able to reach the top in time." The 33-year-old Australian-born Williams, who has had riding stints in England, Hong Kong and Japan as well, praised Jaguar Mail for his effort. "Even with the pace against him, he ran very well. It was a fantastic effort to recover from a tough run in the Japan Cup and come back up here."
Exercise rider Masanori Watanabe also expressed his satisfaction with the running. "The pace was slow and it's too bad he wasn't able to reach the front in time. But, above all, I'm glad he has come back without injury. If we get another chance at the challenge next year, I'd like to take it on."
The Mile lineup was shaken shortly before the race when stewards called Able One lame and unfit to run. He was withdrawn, much to the chagrin of the local fans. There was no need to worry, however, as Beauty Flash, with Hong Kong hero Anthony Cruz, were there to fill his shoes. Gerald Mosse took the 5-year-old gelding from the No. 14 gate to second position, kicked early in the straight and held the lead against all challenges.
The New Zealand-bred Beauty Flash, by Golan out of the Volksraad mare Wychwood Rose, covered the 1,600 meters of firm turf in 1:34.79
"It's all a matter of timing," said Cruz afterwards. "Sometimes you can't push a horse too hard when you're riding him or training him, but sometimes you know when to ask him and he'd been so well in the last few weeks I was very confident that he must finish in the first three."
"I'd like to take this horse overseas to race," said Cruz, whose faith in Beauty Flash had persuaded him to bid for the Yasuda Kinen earlier this year (Beauty Flash finished in 11th place). Cruz said he'd like to "take him to Dubai, Japan. Some of the biggest mile races in the world."
French challenger Royal Bench, with Olivier Peslier up, ran on well from far back to get within three quarters of a length at the line for second, with Sahpresa and Christophe Lemaire another half length behind in third place.
Only five strides before the wire, A Shin Forward went from what looked like it would be a second to a deadheat fourth with France's Rajsaman, as the battling A Shin Forward was overtaken in the last moments by Royal Bench and Sahpresa.
Jockey Yasunari Iwata said A Shin Forward had been in good shape and "feeling good" from the time he entered the track. However, in the gate, according to Iwata, A Shin Forward sat back. Because of that, "We had a hard time getting a good position. Despite the slow pace though he settled in nicely and handled the traffic well. He made up ground well in the straight," Iwata said. "I think he ran a good race and was well suited to the turf."
"He really gave it his all," trainer Masato Nishizono said. "He had lost some weight but fought well. He once again showed me that his strength translates well on the international level. If we are invited next year, I will most definitely once again take on the challenge."
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