Australia commenced the Group 1 feast with the running of the A$700,000, WFA Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m) at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm on Saturday. The New Zealand trained and bred The Bostonian (NZ) won to record his second Group 1 in succession after winning the Doomben 10,000 over 12oom at Doomben on May 11th.
The Tony Pike trained four-year-old gelding by Jimmy Choux was winning for the ninth time from 16 starts and he has now earned stakes of A$1.2 million.
Later on Saturday it was the turn of Singapore to host the S$1m, Sin Group 1 Kranji Mile (1600m) and for the second year in succession Hong Kong’s Southern Legend (AUS) under Hong Kong’s Zac Purton demolished his rivals.
The Caspar Fownes-trained six-year-old No A Single Doubt gelding had two and a half lengths on his rivals, with former Hong Kong galloper Blizzard second and fellow Sha Tin raider Singapore Sling in third.
“That was probably a career best, a big effort. I think it is his best performance,” Zac Purton said of the Boniface Ho-owned gelding.
Hong Kong’s champion jockey enjoyed an easy run on the lead last year; this time he tucked on the rail, one back, stalking the Karis Teetan-ridden Singapore Sling.
“When Singapore Sling went forward like he did, I thought ‘great’ – I just knew from experience that he’s not effective like that so I was happy to let him go, let him use his energy and then wait for the last quarter to do our job. It set the race up for us,” Purton opined.
“Southern Legend travelled very well, he was in a lovely spot and I was happy the way the race unfolded.”
Purton eased the bay off the fence midway down the long home straight. Southern Legend flicked through the gears and surged away.
“It was pretty exciting!” Fownes said after claiming his fifth Kranji major, having tasted international Group 1 success at the track previously with Green Birdie and Lucky Nine.
And the trainer was particularly delighted to see his talented charge put behind him a sub-par run in the Group 1 Dubai Turf (1800m) at Meydan in March.
“It’s always good to bounce back off a disappointing race in Dubai. He loves Singapore, he was looking a treat the last couple of days so I was very happy,” Fownes said.
With Beauty Generation dominating the mile ranks at home, Fownes is likely to build Southern Legend towards the 10-furlong G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup through the first part of next season.
On Sunday Japan’s Roger Barows (JPN) captured his first grade-race victory in this year’s Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), renewing the race record set by Duramente in 2015 by 0.6 seconds to 2:22.6.
The Deep Impact colt won his debut start (2,000m) in August last year and was runner-up in his second start two months later. The bay marked his second win when commencing this year, the Fukujuso Tokubetsu (2,000m), but finished seventh in the Spring Stakes (G2, 1,800m) in March and was second in the Kyoto Shimbun Hai (G2, 2,200m), three weeks prior to this race.
He is the 20th colt since Fusaichi Concorde in 1996 to win the Derby without prior graded win.
This win gave trainer Katsuhiko Sumii his 26th JRA-Grade 1 victory following his Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2000 Guineas) title with Saturnalia and his second Derby win following Vodka in 2007. Jockey Suguru Hamanaka marked his 9th JRA-Grade 1 win following his Mile Championship victory with Mikki Isle in 2016 and his first Derby title in his 13 years of career.
Breaking smoothly from the innermost stall, Roger Barows settled in second behind Lion Lion who dashed out from the outer stall to set an extremely fast pace. Traveling 5-6 lengths behind the frontrunner along the backstretch, the Deep Impact colt gradually closed the gap turning the last two corners and immediately made bid entering the lane to assume command at the 400-meter pole. The bay continued to run strongly, fending off the repeated efforts of Danon Kingly in the last 300 meters, for his first G1 win.
“I was hoping for a fast pace, so settling in second behind an early pace was an ideal race for us. The colt is a stayer with much stamina so he held on strongly even after the uphill climb and ran persistently all the way to the end. He’s now a Derby horse, so we can count on his future performance,” commented Hamanaka.
Shortly after the Tokyo race it was the turn of Hong Kong’s Sha Tin to hold the HK$10 million Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) with Exultant (IRE) winning under Purton who had flown back from Singapore and his Kranji Mile victory.
For Purton it was a record seventh Group 1 win in a Hong Kong season, one more than the six Joao Moreira achieved in 2014/15.
The star stayer’s success was Purton’s fourth in a sparkling six-timer on Sunday’s programme that included both Group race features – his G1 score followed a triumph on the David Hall-trained Little Giant (NZ) in the Group 3 Sha Tin Vase Handicap (1200m).
“It’s been a nice day, I cannot complain!” Hong Kong’s champion said.
Exultant’s win, an equal blend of strength and class from the Tony Cruz-trained Teofilo gelding, took Purton’s season’s tally in Hong Kong to 130. He ended proceedings on 132, just four shy of his all-time best.
The favourite settled fourth of nine behind front-running stablemate Time Warp and was under pressure on the final turn. Purton shifted his mount to a four-wide track at the top of the home straight as last year’s winner Pakistan Star edged out and quickened past to a narrow lead.
But Exultant dug deep for his rider and when Pakistan Star hit his limit inside the 200m mark, the Irish import just kept on galloping to register his third Group 1 score this term, all but securing the end-of-season Hong Kong Champion Stayer title.
“He’s our best stayer and he showed that again today,” Purton said.
Cruz, who began training in 1996, had to wait until 2013 to saddle a Champions & Chater Cup winner; Sunday’s success was his sixth in the historic race.