Prognosis finishes second in QEII, Aguri makes board in Chairman's Sprint
With Hong Kong’s Champions Day once again open to international runners after a pandemic hiatus last year, Japan was represented by four horses competing in two of the day’s three Grade 1 events held at Sha Tin Racecourse on April 30 - the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200 meters) and the FWD QEII Cup (2,000 meters).
Grade 2 winner Prognosis and Grade 1 champs Danon the Kid and Geraldina took on the QEII Cup, with Grade 3 winner Aguri competing in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Though it was a far cry from Japan’s stupendous sweep of the Top 4 spots in 2021, Japanese horses proved themselves in the QEII Cup with a second by Prognosis, who finished two lengths behind repeat winner Romantic Warrior.
Prognosis’s trainer Mitsumasa Nakauchida was pleased with the performance of his 5-year-old Deep Impact charge. “It was the first time he was racing in this class and he went to the gate in extremely good shape,” the trainer commented. “I think the jockey gave him a very good ride and Prognosis raced his heart out and finished second, because there was one horse stronger than he was. He put in a very good race and now that he has proven that he can be competitive at this level. I think this experience will stand him well in the future and bring good results.”
Zac Purton, who rode Prognosis for the first time, said, “It was a fantastic run. The pace was extremely slow and he was a bit slow when he went to shift gears in the stretch. Still, he showed us some excellent footwork in the final stage. I think that if he takes on the Hong Kong Vase in December, he’ll be able to top this time’s results.”
Takayuki Yasuda blamed the slow pace for Danon the Kid’s fifth-place performance, but expressed an eagerness to take on the challenge again. “There was no pace and it just didn’t suit him. I’d like to give it another try.”
Danon the Kid finished a far second to Romantic Warrior in the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin last year, when jockey Yuichi Kitamura had the reins. This time, Vincent Ho was up and agreed, “The pace was just too slow.”
Geraldina, a 5-year-old Maurice mare fielded by trainer Takashi Saito, repeated her sixth-place finish in her previous start, the Osaka Hai, as she crossed the QEII line in sixth place under Cristian Demuro.
“Since arriving in Hong Kong, her condition improved dramatically and though the results were unfortunate, she went to the gate in excellent shape. I think she really tried hard,” the trainer said. “I hope to get her back to the same kind of shape once she’s back in Japan.”
Cristian Demuro posted 1-3 in his two previous rides (both Grade 1) aboard Geraldina in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and the Arima Kinen (The Grand Prix), both in late 2022. “She’d been very worked up prior to the race,” Demuro said of Sunday’s competition. “She was very different to the other times I’d ridden her and her responses were not good.”
Romantic Warrior’s finishing time in what was his 10th win in his 13 career starts was 2 minutes, 1.92 seconds with a closing time of 22.53 seconds over the final 400 meters.
Earlier, in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, the fifth race of the day, Japan’s Aguri only managed a fifth place under Cristian Demuro (some six and a quarter lengths behind winner Lucky Sweynesse) amid the field’s eight runners. Aguri was returning from a seventh-place finish in his first Grade 1 bid, the Takamatsunomiya Kinen on March 26 after nabbing the Grade 2 Hankyu Hai over 1,400 meters at Hanshin.
Trainer Takayuki Yasuda commented after the race: “He’s still young. I’d like to run him in Hong Kong once again in the future.”
Cristian Demuro felt that the distance may not have suited. “I think if you’re going to race in Hong Kong you probably would do better with a bit more distance. That said, he put up a good fight to the finish.”
Lucky Sweynesse, a 4-year-old New Zealand-bred gelding by Sweynesse, topped the field by three and a half lengths and clocked 1 minute, 8.38 seconds over the 1,200 meters of turf rated “good.”
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