(Edited press release)
Eagle Mountain emerged a comfortable winner of the Dec. 14 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) at Sha Tin, a race that will also be remembered for tales of what might have been.
Hong Kong's richest race at HK$20 million ($2.58 million in U.S. funds), had plenty of rough and tumble action. The 1-3 favorite, Viva Pataca, was the chief sufferer, as he was buffeted among horses for much of the home straight and lost any chance in the race.
Jockey Kevin Shea had positioned Eagle Mountain, trained by Mike De Kock, clear of trouble and was able to cut loose from the field at the top of the home straight and forged clear for a 1 1/4-length win from the French runner Balius. Linngari, from Great Britain, was third. Viva Pataca did well to nick fourth in the shadows of the post.
Eagle Mountain races in the yellow and blue silks of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum, who also won this year’s Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I) with Archipenko.
Shea said afterwards: "I am very thrilled to win this, especially as it didn't go exactly to plan. We had to resort to plan B. I was wide on him and he was mucking around a bit turning for home. But when I pulled him out to challenge he picked up really well.
"He's been really good here all week and I was confident he'd be competitive. We know what it's like to lose; we've been second in the Arlington Million (gr. IT, with Archipenko this year) and in the Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT, with Eagle Mountain this year). That was a bitter pill to swallow - so we'll celebrate this one."
A delighted De Kock added: "I knew he was in great shape coming into the race. Maybe his injury was a blessing in disguise, as he had an enforced rest and the chance to mature. He came here a fresh horse. He ran a massive race in America and has come on again.
"He'll go back to Dubai and we'll decide which race to aim him for. I've thought for a while he might be as good as Archipenko and Sun Classique and after today he may even be better."
Darren Beadman came in from his horror trip on Viva Pataca and would only say tersely, "I was hammered at the one thousand-meter mark. We were knocked around from pillar to post."
Douglas Whyte, on board Sight Winner, and Olivier Peslier, on board Artiste Royal, both echoed Beadman's sentiments. But whatever the hard luck stories, nothing can be taken away from the Eagle Mountain camp. De Kock and Shea executed their plan to perfection.
Bred by London Thoroughbred Services, Eagle Mountain is by Rock of Gibraltar out of Masskana, by Darshaan.