Glorious upset of Dragon; California Memory takes thriller at Sha Tin
After posting on the rail in midfield, immediately inside of Ambitious Dragon, Glorious Days moved through strongly at the top of the straight under Douglas Whyte. And with his big rival unable to unleash the brilliant burst that wowed the Sha Tin faithful last time, Glorious Days quickened to lead about 1 1/2 furlongs out, crossing the line a commanding 1 1/2 lengths to the good in a time of 1:34 on the good turf.
"I always thought, in the last four runs, that he would need blinkers and that they would really switch him on," Whyte said, "but you never know until you get to raceday.
"I've never traveled so sweetly on him since the first time he ran. He helped me out through the run and when I've pressed the button, he's taken up any slack and taken the gap that I've wanted and just been a man about it.
"You always get nervous when you're on the fence with Ambitious Dragon on your outside but I had a one-off position, I was posting him a little bit, so he was seeing a bit of daylight -- but forgetting all that, I got the run and I let down and I beat him fair and square."
The Tony Millard-trained Ambitious Dragon, conceding five pounds to the winner, filled the runner-up berth under Zac Purton, while Pure Champion was a further half-length back in third.
"When he pulled up after his last run he was sound -- he wasn't sore even -- so I was very happy about that and I was confident he was coming here with a great chance today," Cruz said of the talented six-year-old, who has been plagued by leg troubles.
"So long as he pulls up sound again tomorrow, we're in for a serious race again on the big day.
"We weren't afraid of gate (12) either," Cruz said. "The race panned out pretty fast, which suited us perfectly, so long as Matthew just took his time.
"He came on very strong and giving five pounds to the field, you can see how big his heart was in the final stages. He just kept digging deep and at the top of the straight he got a little bump too.
"Heading into the big race on December 9, I'm very happy providing he pulls up sound. I think if he's sound and not sore, he'll be just as good as he was last year."
A significant scratch from the Jockey Club Cup was Dominant, who was found to be lame in his left hind leg.
"Brett gave him a good run. He was jogging on the corner, and I think his condition gave out the last 50 meters, but he was good enough to win it. It was a good run by the second horse, but in saying that, I feel in the next three weeks Lucky Nine's going to really come on for this run, and he has a great record third up so I'm looking forward to December 9. He was a little bit off in his coat and there's nothing like a race to bring on a horse's coat.
"He's one of the top horses in Hong Kong and I knew even at 85 percent he was going to be right there today. I said to Brett, under no circumstances should he punish him so he's going to come on a lot from that."
Prebble was delighted with Lucky Nine, who scored by a head from the slow-starting Time After Time in a time of 1:08 4/5. Moore's Admiration was a further three-quarters of a length away in third.
"He came into the race lovely and gave me a really good feel," Prebble said. "He just dragged me up to the furlong pole, and when I let him down he gave me a nice kick. In the last 50 meters, he was found wanting a bit and he'll come on from that. Caspar hasn't squeezed him right up with the big one coming up in December, so he's really put his hand up to be the major player for Hong Kong in the Sprint again."
Singapore raider Super Easy tracked the pace but was outpaced in the final stages as he crossed the line 3 1/2 lengths away in sixth. Super Easy, who lost his left front shoe, was found to have bled.
Hong Kong's top-rated sprinter, the Group 1 King's Stand Stakes hero Little Bridge, was unable to land a blow as he finished ninth of the 14 runners.
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