Akeed Mofeed, the Hong Kong Derby winner in the spring, worked through a tight spot at mid-stretch to win the Longines Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) from persistent Japanese pacesetter Tokei Halo by one length Dec. 8 at Sha Tin, while American hopeful Little Mike finished ninth.
French-based multiple group I winner Cirrus des Aigles, rated the world's top horse at the start of the year, finished third in the Hong Kong Cup, just a neck farther back, and Hong Kong's reigning Horse of the Year, Military Attack, got home fourth.
Little Mike, winner of the 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), raced close to the lead through most of the Cup but could not go with the late runners and quickly faded from contention in the final 200 meters.
Akeed Mofeed, a 4-year-old British-bred colt by Dubawi, covered the 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) on firm going in 2:01.96 under Douglas Whyte. The win gave Hong Kong three wins from the day's four group I races—that in a year when the local team had seemed understaffed and the foreign runners daunting.
The outcome of the Cup, however, was in serious doubt halfway down the Sha Tin stretch. Tokei Halo was on the lead when Whyte tried to move inside of him to take the lead. But Tokei Halo slammed that door shut while Cirrus des Aigles was moving just outside Akeed Mofeed, effectively trapping the eventual winner into a tight box.
"I was trying to sneak up the rail quietly," Whyte said, and when that route was shut down, "I had just enough horse to take back half a length and go around.
"Akeed Mofeed is the real deal," he added.
Winning trainer Richard Gibson credited Whyte for saving the day.
"It's a pleasure working with these world-class jockeys," Gibson said. "There was certainly big trouble on the rail there. It was all the skill and ability of Dougas Whyte."
Whyte had won only one previous race in the Hong Kong International series: the 1998 Hong Kong Vase with Indigenous. "It's been a while between drinks," he said.
Akeed Mofeed, who was bred by Rabbah Bloodstock out of the Tiger Hill mare Wonder Why, started his career in Ireland, where he finished fourth behind Camelot in the 2012 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Ire-I) at the Curragh. He then won a minor stakes at Cork before shipping to Hong Kong. After winning the Hong Kong Derby this March for owner Pan Sutong, he finished fifth behind Military Attack in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I) at Sha Tin in May.
Asked about his plans for Akeed Mofeed in 2014, Gibson said, "We've got stallion plans for the horse. It's a good time to travel" to bolster his resume.
Gibson said it is possible Akeed Mofeed will travel to Dubai and most likely compete in Australia, where he probably will stand after retirement. But he said no firm plans are in place.
"I've just been planning for five months for this one," he said.