Aerovelocity too speedy in KrisFlyer

Source: Singapore Turf Club 
Michael Lee
The Bauhinia flag again flew high in the $1 million Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint (1200m) on Sunday when Hong Kong’s new sprinting star Aerovelocity accounted for a stellar international field to give the former British colony a fifth hurrah in the sprint feature since its inception in 2001.

By winning the KrisFlyer, the Paul O’Sullivan-trained six-year-old gelding was in the process adding a second Leg of the Global Sprint Challenge Series under his belt. His last-start win came in the second Leg, the Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) in Japan on March 29.

Hyped up as the undisputed pre-race favourite all week, the son of Pins did not disappoint his connections and legions of fans, including his loyal group of pink-and-green pennant-waving travelling groupies who had hogged the front rows at Kranji minutes before the race.

Just like his fans homing in on the best spots, $8 favourite Aerovelocity immediately vied for the lead upon despatch, which came a bit as a surprise. The nine-time winner does have a toe, but Bahrain’s Hototo and Singapore flyer Kiwi Karma were seen as the ones who would roll along.

But regular partner Zac Purton knew what he had underneath, and kept pressing forward to eventually settle into the lead from Emperor Max (Corey Brown) with Kiwi Karma (Manoel Nunes) in close attendance while Zac Spirit (Joao Moreira) was desperately trying to tuck in on the rails, but got shuffled back to a rearward spot after suffering a bit of scrimmage.

Purton threw out the anchors from the 800m, but he soon had Kiwi Karma ranging upsides while Hototo (Luke Morris), who was slow out of the gates, came circling the field three wide to inject more urgency into the pace.

Meanwhile, Zac Spirit was still hamstrung in traffic while the winner of the last two editions, Lucky Nine (Brett Prebble), who had settled at the tail from the start, ahead of just El Padrino (Oscar Chavez) was closing in after taking the shortcuts home in the hope of a providential gap upon straightening.

He got held up for a while, but when the breaks came through, the changing of the guard played out inside the last 300m as Aerovelocity started to stretch out under Purton’s first couple of niggles. Kiwi Karma and Emperor Max were still lurking around, but as hard as they tried for the home team, the Hong Kong star’s final burst inside the last 200m packed too much power for them.

Emperor Max replicated his brave run of last year when second to Lucky Nine by finishing in the same spot, about one length closer – 1 ½ lengths astern, but he did turn the tables on Lucky Nine who still ran on valiantly for third another three parts of a length away.

The least fancied of Hong Kong’s trio, Rich Tapestry (Olivier Doleuze) was a likely knockout horse at the 300m when he loomed up, but the dirt specialist soon petered on his run to run fifth, behind Kiwi Karma, who has certainly run the race of her life, being the only filly and three-year-old in the nine-horse field.

The winning time was 1min 9.05secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.

The cheers in the Aerovelocity camp erupted soon after their pin-up horse crossed the line first and grew in crescendo for a long way as he cantered on towards the backstraight before pulling up, but the one person who must still be pinching himself amidst all the wild celebrations was O’Sullivan.

The New Zealander moved to Hong Kong in 2004 with a robust pedigree of 11 champion trainer titles back home and several champions he had put the bridle on. O’Sullivan did make his presence felt in the racing mecca, but was always a few notches behind the top guns in his first 10 seasons, until he experienced a sharp upswing in fortunes in the last two seasons, which happily coincided with the arrival of Aerovelocity.

The Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) began the amazing fairy tale, then Japan and now Singapore. The affable Kiwi is, however, not the sort who is all out to start a world domination on the sprinting stage, happy to just savour the moment first.

“It is more a relief than a thrill to win as we are a long way from home,” said O’Sullivan.

“He might have won with a little bit in hand as he was sitting pretty, so we are just relieved.

“It was not really the plan to lead, but he has got very good gate speed. We did not know what to expect from the local horses here. Obviously they were happy to just let him bowl along.

“Zac knows him very well but I thought he was sitting up a little long on him. At the 300m I was like ‘Let him go for God’s sake.”

“It is a long way home when you get beat, I have done it a thousand times.

“We will sit down with Daniel (Yeung) who owns him. He is up for the bonus now, so I think we will prioritise that, but we will let the dust settle and talk to Daniel.”

A bonus is up for grabs for any three-Leg winner of the Global Sprint Challenge Series, with the next Legs being in England, the King’s Stand Stakes followed by the Golden Jubilee Stakes and the Darley July Cup, but O’Sullivan is unlikely to take that option.

Purton, who is at his first KrisFlyer success, having finished second with Emperor Max last year, was his usual phlegmatic and unflappable self as he stood in the limelight for the second time at Kranji. He won the Singapore Airlines International Cup with Military Attack two years ago.

“He’s a pretty special horse to me. You don’t ride so many horses like this guy,” said the reigning Hong Kong champion jockey.

“He always gives 100%. Even in defeat, he tries his guts out.

“He had to do a bit of work to go forward, but once he took the lead, he softened up a bit.

“Turning into the straight, I was waiting for something to come at me, but he just kept kicking. Paul’s done a great job with him.”

With Aerovelocity’s win, Hong Kong maintains its stranglehold on the Sprint, having first won it with Sacred Kingdom (2009), Green Birdie (2010), before Singapore broke the hegemony by keeping the trophy on home soil with Rocket Man (2011) and Ato (2012) until Lucky Nine resumed their monopoly (2013, 2014) – and now another flying machine by the apt name of Aerovelocity has swooped down on a fifth success.

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