(from Hong Kong Jockey Club)
Doctor Dino, France's great international traveler, returned to Sha Tin to complete back-to-back victories in the Dec. 14 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase (HK-I). In a thrilling finish, he topped the luckless Purple Moon by a head in the HK$14 million (US$1.82 million) race. Jaguar Mail was a neck back in third.
Richard Gibson's grand old servant is now the first horse since the British-trained Luso in 1996 and 1997 to carryn off this 2,400-meter (1 1/2 miles) prize in back-to-back years.
A thrilled Gibson said: "He has joined an elite band of horses. He is a unique athlete."
In a slowly-run race, Doctor Dino had to be settled out in the rear from his wide draw but his ice-cool jockey Olivier Peslier never panicked. Over a “good” turf course, the early splits were :27.27, :52:58, and 1:18.16. The mile went in 1:42.78 and they hit the quarter pole in 2:05.86. The final time was 2:29.14.
Turning into the straight, Doctor Dino still had a lot to do, but Peslier made up ground on the wide outside to wear down the brave runner-up just inches from the line.
Gibson's first thought after the race was to commiserate with Purple Moon's trainer Luca Cumani, who had to suffer more agony with defeat in a big international race.
“Before anything I want to commiserate with Luca Cumani and Purple Moon for the great race they ran,” said Gibson. “But the story is about Doctor Dino and he has joined an elite band of horses to win this race twice. He's a very unique, powerful athlete and I am very proud of him."
"He moved well down the back straight and being on the outside helped him,” said Peslier. “He takes a little time to wind up but the horse who came at me on the outside (Jaguar Mail) also helped me. I want to thank the owner and trainer and in particular Eric Gandon who rides him every day."
Purple Moon was beaten only a half-length by Efficient in the 2007 Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) and had no luck in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) two weeks ago while finishing ninth.
Luca Cumani was magnanimous in defeat and said: "I am very proud with the way the horse ran. I don't mind when they get beaten when they run to their very best."
The winner went over the $3-million mark in earnings with the victory. Bred in France by Ecurie Pelder, Doctor Dino is a son of Muhathir, out of the Priolo mare Logica. He has won nine of 29 starts.
In his previous start to returning to Hong Kong, Doctor Dino ran fifth in the Oct. 4 Pattison Canadian International (Can-IT) at Woodbine. Earlier this year, he racked up more frequent flyer points with a victory in the Grand Prix de Chantilly (Fr-I) and a third-place finish in the Nakheel Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in Dubai. In 2007, Doctor Dino won the Man o’ War Stakes (gr. IT) at Belmont Park and was third in the Arlington Million (gr. IT).
Muhannak, winner of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Marathon Oct. 26 at Santa Anita Park, finished seventh in the Vase. “He was running on empty when they quickened up,” said jockey Pat Smullen. “I don’t think he is up to this standard.”