The story is as old as history itself. A confident young brother grows in strength and confidence and feels the time is right to take his older sibling down a peg.
But the problem with older brothers is that they tend to know how to handle themselves when things get tough and Time Warp (131lb) took his heavily-backed kid brother Glorious Forever (114lb) to school under Zac Purton in a dramatic Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Glorious Forever lined up a heavily-backed 1.6 favourite after three impressive wins under Purton, including one in which he broke big brother’s 2000m record at Sha Tin.
By contrast, Time Warp was ignored at almost 14-1 after failing to beat a single horse in three runs since becoming the first horse ever to break the two-minute barrier in a punishing Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup in February.
Everything seemed in place for a new young star to announce himself but the script reckoned without several key plot twists, headed by a shrewd ride from Purton and backed up by a surprising change of tactics on Glorious Forever and an ominous return to the headstrong bad old days from Pakistan Star.
The bare result shows Time Warp held on by a diminishing neck from Glorious Forever, the pair clear of a staying-on Eagle Way and Exultant, with Pakistan Star trailing home last of nine after looking reluctant briefly passing the 1600m start.
However, Purton was in no doubt that the opening seconds of the race were every bit as crucial as the closing stages and told winning trainer Tony Cruz as much before he even dismounted.
“He won that race as soon as that horse (Glorious Forever) missed the start, Tony,” beamed Purton as he prepared to lead Time Warp into the winner’s circle for the sixth time in his Hong Kong career.
The runner-up’s tardy break certainly played its part, but the fact that Purton was able to ease his way to the front through a very sedate first 800m was equally important and Cruz added his own key factor in revealing that Time Warp needs handling with rare finesse where the whip is concerned nowadays.
Chad Schofield, who had worked hard to put up just 1lb overweight aboard Glorious Forever, seemed surprisingly content to settle in second despite the pedestrian early fractions.
Frankie Lor’s gelding dug in hard as the winner upped the pace but Time Warp relished having his own way back over 1800m and produced extra every time he was challenged with Purton delivering just the occasional flick of the whip in front of the saddle.
Having spent the build-up suggesting Time Warp was “at the crossroads” and facing “his D-Day,” Purton was more than happy to admit “Tony was too smart for me” in suggesting the winner was ready to peak again.
Meanwhile, Cruz looked back to last year’s Ladies’ Purse as the day when he lost the battle but won the the war of working how to get the very best out of Time Warp.
“Last year I told Joao Moreira not to hit him on his hind quarters but he whacked him there and Time Warp just stopped in front and gave the race to Nassa,” he said.
“I always knew what he needs to produce his best but the jockey has to follow my instructions. Today worked out perfectly and now we can try to win the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup again.”
Lor can take heart from the fact that Time Warp landed the Cup last year after finishing second in the Ladies’ Purse but Glorious Forever will be 17lb worse off if the first two meet again on December 9.
Schofield said “he travelled like he was going to pick up the leader but Time Warp was just too strong,” while Karis Teetan felt the hard-pulling Pakistan Star “just got too far back after he had a bit of a think and lost his position at the 1600m mark.”
Cruz is well aware that Pakistan Star has history at that part of the Sha Tin circuit having pulled himself up in a a race and a barrier trial in the past but is inclined to forgive his mercurial gelding an off day in such a tactical affair.
“Pakistan Star has his own memories about the 1600m mark but I wouldn’t worry too much about today,” he said.
“I don’t think he will stop if he goes around over a longer trip and we are still on to go for the Vase with him.”
Silvestre De Sousa and Vincent Ho are also looking forward to Eagle Way and Exultant returning to 2400m in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase in December.
Werther and Nassa could loom large among the opposition in the Hong Kong Cup, but much of the interest there could centre around a potential sibling rivalry re-match.
Glorious Forever surely has more to give but Time Warp will be bidding to become just the second horse to win the Cup twice.
You need a decent memory to remember the first. A California Memory, to be exact. And that horse. of course, was also trained by a certain A S Cruz!
Hong Kong racing resumes on Wednesday November 7 at Happy Valley.
- -Hong Kong Jockey Club