Sept. 9 (UPI) — It was an eventful weekend in international horse racing with Hello Youmzain winning the Group 1 Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock Park in England, Circus Maximus posting a controversial Group 1 win in France and Korean horses thoroughly whipping the visitors in that country’s two big races.
In Hong Kong, former riding champ Joao Moreira booted home three winners in the second weekend of the season while the $20 million Saudi Cup, slated for Feb. 29 in Riyadh, already is on the mind of at least one trainer.
Around the world, around the clock:
Saturday’s Group 1 Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock Park lost a bit of luster when both Advertise and Ten Sovereigns took a pass. But it regained some sparkle when Hello Youmzain, under James Doyle, made all and won by 1/ 2 length over a closing The Tin Man. German raider Waldpfad was third and Brando checked in fourth.
Hello Youmzain, a 3-year-old, French-bred colt by Kodiac, returned after nearly three months vacation following a third-place finish in the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, behind Advertise. Prior to that, he landed a Group 2 over the Haydock course. Even though he dodged the main potential rivals Saturday, his stock took a rise after the win.
“It was an amazing performance and he’s a fantastic horse,” Racing Post quoted trainer Kevin Ryan. The colt now targets British Champions Day at Ascot.
Circus Maximus beat Romanised by a nose in Sunday’s Group 1 Prix du Moulin at Longchamp but the result will be challenged by the latter’s owner, Robert Ng. Trainer Ken Condon said Ng, based in Hong Kong, viewed video of Circus Maximus drifting out in the stretch run, making contact with Romanised and felt there is a “pretty cut-and-dried case” to overturn the local officials’ decision to let the result stand.
For now, however, Circus Maximus, a 3-year-old Galileo colt representing Coolmore, has his second Group 1 win, backing up victory in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. He also was second in the Grade I Qatar Sussex Stakes at the same mile trip before finishing fading seventh in the 10 1/2-furlongs Juddmonte International at York.
Winning rider Ryan Moore pooh-poohed talk of a reversal. “He was the best horse on the day and was always holding the second with a bit more in the tank,” Racing Post quoted the rider. “He beat five Group 1 winners and it’s clear his best form is at a mile. We had a nice slot and he battled on well.”
The locals were unbeatable Sunday in Korea’s two big international races with Moonhak Chief taking the 9-furlongs Korea Cup and Blue Chipper victorious in the 6-furlongs Sprint. A significant squad of Americans, plus a smattering of European and Hong Kong contenders, made almost zero impact over a sand course that was softened by rains from Typhoon Lingling.
In the Cup, Moonhak Chief surged to the lead on the backstretch and was in charge thereafter, winning by 2 1/2 lengths from Cheongdam Dokki. Ambassadorial, owned and trained by Jane Chappel-Hyam, finished third and that was the best showing of any foreigner on the day.
Moonhak Chief, a Kentucky-bred colt by Pioneerof the Nile, went one up on his previous start — a second to Korea’s Dubai hero, Dolkong. Saturday, Dolkong spun his wheels and couldn’t do better than fifth. American runners Harvey Wallbanger and the well-backed Lone Sailor reported sixth and 10th, respectively.
Vincent Ho, who traveled from Hong Kong to partner Glorious Artist to a fourth-place finish, summed things up for the various international raiders, saying the track was too much to overcome. “It was so deep, there wasn’t the turn of foot like there is in Hong Kong,” the rider told the South China Morning Post.
The Korean contingent was even more dominant in the Korea Sprint as Blue Chipper overcame an outside post, won a stretch battle and pulled away comfortably in the final 100 meters. Dia Socks held second with Gaon Champ third as the first seven finishers were from the home team.
Blue Chipper, a 4-year-old by Tiznow, improved his career record to seven wins from eight starts and seems a likely candidate to follow Dolkong’s path to Dubai.
Former champion jockey Joao Moreira, shut out on the season-opening card the previous weekend, booted home three winners Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse — more to his expectation and liking.
“I knew I would have better rides when it came to the second and third meetings, so I didn’t panic,” said Moreira, who lost the premiership to Zac Purton last season while trying futilely to establish himself in Japan. “I knew I was doing the proper job and I was talking with as many trainers as I could. They were kind enough to support me with good rides and I’m very pleased and glad to be able to kick off. There is plenty more to come.”
Meanwhile, those who think the inaugural running of the $20 million Saudi Cup next Feb. 29 isn’t attracting international attention might want to think again. Trainer Tony Millard, while admitting a bit of improvement is needed, is thinking Dubai and beyond to Riyadh for Elusive State, the runner-up in Sunday’s Po Yan Handicap.
“No one wants to say he’s that good at this stage but what’s good about the Saudi race is that it’s over 1,800 meters and that is exactly what Elusive State wants,” Millard said. “He’s the type of horse who’s progressive and if we can get him in the right spot you never know what might happen.”
The attraction of the Saudi Cup for the likes of Elusive State is bolstered by the fact it pays richly down to $200,000 for the 10th place finisher. The winner’s share is $10 million but second is worth $3.5 million, third pays $2 million, fourth returns $1.5 million and the fifth-place finisher banks $1 million. Since expenses are paid by the organizers, a profitable visit is likely.