Viva Pataca finally achieved his rightful place alongside the greats of Hong Kong racing when he was named Horse of the Year for 2008-09 at the annual Champions Awards.
The pain of his surprise defeat at the hands of Vengeance of Rain for the same award two years ago was but a faded memory as owner Stanley Ho Hung-sun, accompanied by his wife Angela Leung, accepted the trophy.
Breaking with a long-standing personal tradition and giving his acceptance speech in English rather than Cantonese, Ho told of his pride at finally owning Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year.
“I am very delighted that my horse, Viva Pataca, has been voted Horse of The Year after waiting for four years,” he said, reminding racegoers that the gelding’s first group I win was the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby in March, 2006.
“Although he is now a 7-year-old, he still has great racing strength and energy that has enabled him to win races right through the season. I’d like to thank my many supporters, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, my trainer John Moore and all his staff.”
It was a big day out for Ho, Moore and the Viva Pataca team, with the seven-time group I winner also waltzing away with the annual awards for champion middle-distance horse and stayer.
For Moore, it was something of a consolation prize after Caspar Fownes had wrenched the trainers’ title from his grasp but the Australian horseman was still thrilled that his all-time favorite racehorse had finally been properly acknowledged.
“It’s been long overdue,” Moore began. “He’s always been my hero but not been a public hero like some others. Probably the reason for that is that he missed out winning the big race in Dubai (second in the 2008 Dubai Sheema Classic, UAE-I), which would have given him the Horse of the Year title at that time, and I think as a result he fell back in comparison to other horses as far as the public was concerned.
“Today, the votes were in his favor and I want to say thanks to all concerned, to Dr. Ho for giving us the budget that allowed us to get a horse of this caliber. It’s been a magical trip and it’s not over yet---we’ve still got next season with him.”
Moore then threw out a bold tip for the 2010 award: “I’m looking forward to next year and hopefully Collection being Horse of the Year.”
Collection won this year’s Derby brilliantly under a super Darren Beadman ride but was then unplaced in the Hong Kong Champions Mile (HK-I) and third in the Champions & Chater Cup (HK-I) May 31, behind Viva Pataca.
The outstanding stayer did not emerge with a clean sweep, however, as members of the public voted for Sacred Kingdom over him as the most popular horse. With more than 190,000 votes registered, Sacred Kingdom held a margin over Viva Pataca of 2,634 votes.
Last year’s Horse of the Year Good Ba Ba was again named champion miler, while Sacred Kingdom also backed up year on year to get the nod as top sprinter.
All of these three stars currently have places among the best horses on the planet in the official World Thoroughbred Rankings.
Caspar Fownes was crowned champion trainer for a second time, Douglas Whyte accepted a ninth trophy as champion jockey, and Matthew Chadwick was champion apprentice, having posted a new record of 43 wins.
Despite giving away a huge start after online voting ceased, Whyte rallied strongly to narrowly beat Brett Prebble as Hong Kong’s most popular jockey garnering 65,735 votes to Prebble’s 65,441.
The Jockey Club reported a record 380,418 votes from members of the public for the two awards, up 22% year on year.