Racing: No stopping Lucky Nine again

Racing: No stopping Lucky Nine again
Tommy Berry winning the Singapore Airlines International Cup on Hong Kong's Dan.

One by one, the records fell as Singapore crowned a familiar champion in the $1 million KrisFlyer International Sprint, even as unchartered territory was discovered.

Lucky Nine, that intrepid traveller from Hong Kong and last year's defending champion, became the first horse to make it back-to-back wins in the International Group 1 sprint over 1,200m.

Trainer Caspar Fownes also etched his name into the record books, winning the event for a historic third time to make him the most successful trainer in the biggest and richest sprint race in Singapore.

Proving that age is no barrier to success, Lucky Nine ($16), who at seven, was the second-oldest runner in the field after eight-year-old Captain Obvious (Oscar Chavez).

The other eight-year-old, England's Medicean Man, was a withdrawal behind the barriers as he cast his near-fore glue-on plate which could not be refitted at the starting gates.

BRISK WINNING TIME

Ridden by his regular partner Brett Prebble, Lucky Nine finished two-and-a-half lengths ahead Singapore's Emperor Max (Zac Purton). Another Singapore contender, Zac Spirit (Alan Munro), finished third, two and a quarter lengths away.

Captain Obvious was fourth, another length and a quarter back.

The winning time was a brisk 1min 8.15sec, just outside the short course record of another Hong Kong KrisFlyer winner, Sacred Kingdom, who clocked 1min 7.80secs in 2009.

For Fownes, whose first triumph here was with Green Birdie in the 2010 edition, it was sweet vindication for his superstar speedster, who posted a three-length victory here last year but, in the past 12 months since then, has at times been written off as being over the hill.

"Don't tell him he's a seven-year-old!" laughed the Hong Kong-based British handler.

"I'm immensely proud of him and it's been a real pleasure to have this horse. We've had a lot of fun having him in our stable and it's thrilling to get my third win in this event."

This was also Lucky Nine's seventh Group 1 victory, more than the combined total of the other eight runners, in a glittering career that began as a two-year-old racing in Ireland and has taken him all across the globe, competing also in Japan, Dubai and Australia.

Before this victory, the son of Dubawi had picked up 12 wins from 37 starts and amassed stakes earnings of around HK$47 million ($7.6 million). This latest victory was worth around $550,000 for his connections.

"He adjusts to new environments very well," said Fownes.

"He's like us, he loves to travel and get out of Hong Kong. He's got a lot of heart, that's what you need in a good horse."

This article was published on May 19 in The New Paper.

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