South Africa landed a three headed punch on the Sha Tin card on Sunday, when South African rider Callan Murray brought home the SA-bred Horse Of Fortune, trained by fellow South African, Tony Millard, in the $3,000,000 G3 Premier Plate.
The race unfolded dramatically as Hong Kong darling Pakistan Star, runner-up in the BMW Hong Kong Derby, second in the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup and sent off favourite in this afternoon’s race, got off to an awkward start. The Sharmadal gelding refused to take the bridle and slowed to a stop 200m into the race and even the best efforts of champion jockey Joao Moreira could not persuade him to rejoin the field, leaving a field of four to fight for the laurels.
Callan rode an economical ride, keeping Horse Of Fortune on the rail all the way. As the field turned for home, Romantic Touch rolled to the outside, giving the South African duo a clear run. Asked for an effort passing the 400m marker, Horse Of Fortune forged through resolutely, drawing clear to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Click here to watch the race replay.
Callan commented, “He was really tough in the running. I did have a pretty smooth run from the jump and just went up on the fence, I didn’t want to lose too much ground coming out and he went smooth to the line.” Callan, who rode his first book of Hong Kong rides at Happy Valley on 21 May, was celebrating his second Hong Kong Gr3 win and his 4th win overall. Victory was all the sweeter because his family were there to support him.
A delighted Tony Millard said, “He’s a fantastic horse, he cost next to nothing and he’s done a great job. He won the Ladies’ Purse this season and now he’s won this. He was a fairly ordinary horse in South Africa – he was around about the Group races, but he wasn’t quite there and I think if anything he’s improved in Hong Kong. The plan is to run him in the mile Class 1 race on the last day of the season – we’ll just see what weight he gets,” he added. “He’s a versatile horse, he’s below top class but every race has to have a winner and that’s why you must enter. Callan gave him a really nice ride.”
Horse Of Fortune crossed the line in 1m 48.09s, 1 1/4 length ahead of Romantic Touch, with 2015 winner Harbour Master, a further head back in third.
Horse Of Fortune is the first stakes winner from the second crop of former Summerhill resident Stronghold, who died after just two seasons at stud. He was bred by Robin Bruss and Kevin Sommerville under the Northfields Stud banner. Out of the Riaan Van Reenen-trained Sweet Virginia (Casey Tibbs), who defeated male rivals in both the Gr3 Winter Classic and Winter Derby, Horse Of Fortune is from a branch of the high-class ‘Milly’ family which has produced champion race filly Dancewiththedevil and graded stakes winners Bushra and Mighty Doll.
Horse Of Fortune, who started his racing career in South Africa under the name of Strongman, was a R150 000 purchase from the 2012 Cape Premier Yearling Sale. He was trained by Glen Puller and had 8 starts in South Africa, racing in the interests of Messrs C F Bester, F M Carruthers, P Fourie, Ken Martin & Ian Robinson. He was unbeaten in two starts as a juvenile and started his 3yo career by winning the Listed Sophomore Sprint. He had 5 more starts in South Africa, including finishing 2nd in the 2014 Gr3 Politician Stakes, before being exported to Hong Kong to join the Tony Millard stable.
Horse Of Fortune made his Hong Kong debut on 28 December 2014 and the 6yo has notched 6 wins to date, and two at this level, having won November’s Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap at the course and distance.
Not So Stellar
Having finally responded to Moreira’s urgings, Pakistan Star followed the field home nearly a minute later, passing the post to claim fifth. “He wanted to stop,” said a frustrated Moreira immediately after weighing-in. “I urged him and tried hard to get him running but he just didn’t want to go!” The Stipendiary Stewards will require Pakistan Star to pass two consecutive barrier trials, one of which must be contested over 1600m of the Sha Tin turf course – before allowing him to race again.