Tragedy and Triumph in Hong Kong Champions Mile

Upset Marred By Loss Of Champion

Contentment win the 2017 Gr1 Champions Mile (photo: HKJC)

A triumphant Brett Prebble salutes as Contentment wins the 2017 Gr1 Champions Mile (photo: HKJC)

Triumph was tempered by tragedy in a dramatic 2017 renewal of the HK$16 million G1 Hong Kong Champions Mile at Sha Tin.

On Sunday, 7 May John Size-trained 25-1 shot Contentment battled to a neck verdict under Brett Prebble.  However, he had to survive an objection to seal a second Group 1 triumph, while the day was marred with the loss of rising Hong Kong star, Rapper Dragon who broke down during the race and could not be saved.

Contentment, who prefers to race handy, broke smartly from gate 1 in the seven horse field to take the early lead. However, things took a turn for the unexpected when English visitor Stormy Atlantic (Karis Teetan), possibly reacting to racing in blinkers for the first time, over raced and surged into the lead with approximately 1000m to go and the Size-charge settled into his slipstream.

Stormy Antarctic cried enough as the field swept down the home straight. Tommy Berry and Helene Paragon kicked for the lead, but Contentment took up the challenge and driven on by Prebble, the Hussonet gelding dug deep to reclaim the lead and hold off a late finishing Beauty Only (Zak Purton) who came charging down the inside to grab second. Tommy Berry was third aboard the John Moore-trained Helene Paragon.

Quirky

Contentment win the 2017 Gr1 Champions Mile (photo: HKJC)

Contentment holds off Beauty Only to win the 2017 Gr1 Champions Mile (photo: HKJC)

Zac Purton lodged an objection against Contentment on the grounds of interference in the home straight, but it was dismissed by the Stewards. The result was allowed to stand with Prebble jogging back out to receive the silverware.

“I was pretty confident,” Prebble said afterwards. “Zac didn’t stop riding.  But a lot happened differently today too,” he continued. “When Stormy Antarctic took off around to lead, that gave Contentment a bunny to chase, which he hasn’t had for a while. When Helene Paragon went early too, Contentment had one on his outside to chase as well and enjoyed it. A bit like Contentment, I don’t think I’ve had a bad season at all but I have been looking for a highlight. He’s a quirky horse Contentment. It’s his second Group One and you know he’s always got it there but it’s just hard to get that performance out of him. One hundred percent of the credit goes to John; he’s a genius.”

It was a third Champions Mile success for Prebble following wins on Bullish Luck (2006) and the Size-trained Sight Winner (2009) and it was a second G1 win for the Australian-bred Contentment, who finished second to Maurice in last year’s Champion’s Mile and won the 2016 G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup last April, but has remained winless in 9 outings this term.

Trainer John Size has two previous Champions Mile titles under his belt and was celebrating his first ‘major’ of the season. Size commented, “I don’t think his form has been bad at all anyway. He has been getting beaten a length and a half all season in Group Ones and that’s his place in life but every now and then the luck bounces his way and he can win – it isn’t his first Group One so we know he’s got it. He’s done nothing wrong. He’ll go to Japan now assuming the owner wants to go. He failed there last year but you can’t convict him on one race.”

Of runner-up Beauty Only’s efforts, trainer Tony Cruz said, “I think he handled the ground fine today but he just didn’t get clear running when he wanted it.”

The John Moore-trained Helene Paragon, held on for third, a half-length behind Beauty Only. Tommy Berry was candid post-race. “I’d seen Beauty Only and Rapper Dragon were behind me so I thought, at the top of the straight, I’d steal a march,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about getting out early but I probably should have sat a little bit longer because he was found wanting late on. I’ve ridden him with a plan to beat the favourite and that’s got me beaten. He’s done a great job to run third.”

The Danny Shum-trained Circuit Land ran a game fourth as the Ed Walker-trained Stormy Antarctic faded to fifth under Karis Teetan and fellow British raider Convey, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, was a never-dangerous nine and a half lengths sixth of the finishers.

Tragedy

Joao Moreira with Rapper Dragon after their 2017 BMW HK Derby win (photo: HKJC)

Joao Moreira with Rapper Dragon after their 2017 BMW HK Derby win (photo: HKJC)

Unfortunately the triumph of the winning connections was overshadowed when ‘people’s hero’ and rising Hong Kong star, Rapper Dragon, broke down during the race and later died of his injuries.

It had been widely anticipated that Rapper Dragon would win the Champions Mile to cap off an exceptional season in which he became the first horse to sweep the four-year-old series (Classic Mile, Classic Cup, Hong Kong Derby), but the 1-4 favourite he never quite got into stride and was pulled up by Jaoa Moreira with 800m to go.

Moreira dismounted immediately and Rapper Dragon was vanned to the on-site Equine Hospital. HKJC’s head of veterinary services, Dr Christopher Riggs said, “Rapper Dragon suffered a severe fracture of his pelvis which, unfortunately, was coupled with serious complications. Despite our intensive care in the equine hospital, we were unable to save him.”

The son of Street Boss started his career in Australia, winning his maiden at Wyong before running second in the Group One Champagne Stakes at Randwick when trained by Gai Waterhouse. He was then sold to Hong Kong and had 12 starts for John Moore, winning eight and earning over HK$30 million in prize money.

In a brief statement, Moore commented: “Too distraught to talk. A dreadfully sad end to a champion’s brief career. He will go down in folklore as a crowd favourite that set such a high standard for others to dream of emulating. Our sincere thanks to Chris Riggs and his staff who did their utmost to save the champ.”

Joao Moreira, who had partnered the powerful chestnut on every one of his 8 wins, including Moreira’s triumphant first BMW Hong Kong Derby win back in March, was very badly affected. The Brazilian fulfilled his engagement in the following race, the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize to finish second on Mr Stunning, but stood down from his remaining rides.

Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO  said: “I think the Chairman’s Sprint was a fantastic race and even the Champions Mile saw some great performances but, for me, what happened with Rapper Dragon has really put a pall on the day.  Joao [Moreira] acted extremely fast to pull him up and we had a top-class team and a clinic right here on the track but unfortunately he could not be saved. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to all of those involved in the life and care of Rapper Dragon, in particular, owner Albert Hung and his family.”

 

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