It was a win to savour. After 11 group placings without a win to show, Hong Kong-based English expatriate Cape Of Good Hope made it to the winner's circle and in a group I, no less.
His first win in two years for also English expatriate handler, David Oughton, came at the expense of the locals after the $375,000 (Australian funds) Australia Stakes (Aust-I), over 1,200 meters at Moonee Valley Feb. 19.
Melbourne jockey Brett Prebble made the most of a hometown hit-and-run visit on the winner, sitting in for Michael Kinane. The Irish rider partnered Cape of Good Hope at the 7-year-old's Australian debut, which yielded a splendid third to Danehill colt Fastnet Rock in the Lightning Stakes (Aust-I and 1,000 meters) Feb 5. A Dubai commitment prevented his return.
The $250,000 winning purse from his sixth and most important win advanced Cape of Good Hope's earnings to more than $3.2 million from 35 starts. He is raced by Guy Carstairs.
Oughton made no secret of the fact that Inchinor's fastest-moving advertisement was in Australia to avoid Silent Witness. He is 0-8 against the Australian-bred son of El Moxie (by Conquistador Cielo). He is scheduled to resume the so far one-sided battle in his next start Feb 26, as Silent Witness attempts to make it 15 unbeaten starts.
Inchinor's others group I winners are Latice, in the Prix de Diane Hermes (French Oaks, Fr-I), and Summoner in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Eng-I.
Cape Of Good Hope (9-2) had no trouble following the speed set by 11-10 favorite Spark of Life and had the 4-year-old well covered into the final bend. It was left to Super Elegant (5-1) to take second, 1 ¾ lengths from the winner at the wire and three-quarters ahead of Spark of Life. The 1:10.30 for the 1,200 meters in the 79th edition is the fastest in this race for the past eight years around the tight Valley circuit, the mark 1:10.16.
Prebble, in his first full season in Hong Kong, said he would be happy to go anywhere in the world to ride Cape of Good Hope. "He's a high-class sprinter, it's just that he keeps running into a superstar in Silent Witness at home (Hong Kong)," Prebble said. "You've got no idea how good Silent Witness is, but this horse cannot get near him. He is the Phar Lap of sprinters."
In Sydney, Hennessy's best Australian runner Grand Armee won his fifth group I and advanced his earnings to $1.17 million for owner Alan Bell in the 80th Chipping Norton Stakes Feb 19.
The Newhaven Park-bred 6-year-old had to work hard in deep stretch at Warwick Farm to overcome the feisty pacemeker Court's In Session, finally winning by a long neck. Zabeel mare Winning Belle powered home well for third a farther three-quarters of a length away. Gai Waterhouse prepared the first and third horses, the winner ridden by Dan Beasley.