By Murray Bell
Vengeance of Rain may be retired but there will be no respite for his intended Dubai Sheema Classic opposition, with Viva Pataca’s dominating victory in the HK$8 million Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup at 2,000 meters Feb. 23 proving he’s ripe and ready for the world stage.
Viva Pataca, owned by Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun, was as dominant on the turf as he was in the betting, with the 1-2 favorite taking control at the 200 meters before surging away to score by 2 3/4 lengths from Floral Pegasus.
The group I race was Vengeance of Rain’s final Hong Kong start last year before jetting to Dubai and felling some of the world’s best 2,400-meter horses in the Sheema Classic (UAE-I), the world’s equal-richest race on turf.
In that race, he had only a neck to spare on Viva Pataca, but yesterday the John Moore-trained galloper was back to his brilliant best, giving the owner and trainer some deserved compensation for his unlucky second in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) over the same course and distance in December.
“That’s the sort of performance I’d hoped to see, and fully expected to see,” Moore said in the afterglow of victory. “It’s just a shame he hadn’t won the Cup in December, because that would have given him a clean sweep of the major staying races over the past 12 months. But that’s history now, we just have to look forward to Dubai and I’m very confident this horse will be able to prove his quality on the international stage.”
Darren Beadman rode a supremely confident race on Viva Pataca. Although he had drawn barrier two, the champion Australian rider cleverly positioned himself on the outside of one of his main dangers, Floral Pegasus (Gerald Mosse) at the half way mark.
“We wanted to make sure he had plenty of room when we made our run on him,” Beadman explained. “I loved the way he switched off today. From the 800 meters, he went through the gears beautifully and really opened up nicely in the final 300 meters.
“As he gets fitter and is trained for 2,400 meters, he relaxes better. He’s won with a lot of authority today.”
The Gold Cup has been a race of upsets over the past decade, and Viva Pataca was the first favored horse to win the race since 1999.
Floral Pegasus finished gamely to defeat stablemate Bullish Luck by a head for the quinella spot, with trainer Tony Cruz saying both horses would run in the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free on March 29, if invited by the Dubai Racing Club.