By Murray Bell
Sacred Kingdom has just one formidable challenge left — a race against Australian speed ace Miss Andretti at Sha Tin race course in three weeks time — and the right result there will see him claim the title of the world’s champion sprinter for 2007.
Sacred Kingdom was devastating for jockey Gerald Mosse in the Nov. 16 Cathay Pacific International Sprint Trial (HK-II), annihilating his rivals with a lethal turn of acceleration to score by 2 3/4 lengths and posting a new course record of 1:07.5 in the process. Absolute Champion, the world’s top sprinter for 2006, ran a meritorious second, conceding Sacred Kingdom five pounds, while the other leading contender Medic Power finished among the tail enders before being diagnosed as having a heart irregularity.
The superlatives flowed in the afterglow of victory, with trainer Ricky Yiu declaring the Encosta de Lago gelding “a more exciting horse” than Fairy King Prawn, the champion with whom he won the Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) in 1999.
“I was very confident today but admit even I am surprised that he could blow those top sprinters away like that,” Yiu said.
“The acceleration he showed when Gerald took him to the outside was just amazing. When this horse was younger, I said he was the most exciting horse I’ve had since Fairy King Prawn. Now I can confidently say he is more exciting — and at least I’ll get to keep this one,” he added with a laugh.
Yiu was referring to the cruel blow landed to his career when Fairy King Prawn was taken off him and given to champion trainer Ivan Allan in early 2000, even though Yiu had already taken the great Danehill gelding through to win at international level.
Yiu said Sacred Kingdom is already at the required levels of fitness and excellence for the Dec. 9 Hong Kong Sprint. “I just have to keep him ticking over nicely for the next three weeks — he won’t need much more,” Yiu added.
Mosse rode Sacred Kingdom with that charismatic confidence which has seen him land group I races all over the world.
“First up, I was impressed with him, but today I expected it,” the Frenchman said with emphasis. “I rode him confidently but I just wanted to ensure he didn’t give me too much, too early. But when Scintillation came across in front of us covered us up [three wide], he dropped the bridle, he breathed nicely and he changed his lead perfectly.
“Around the home turn, he was so relaxed that I just knew I was going to get a nice turn of foot from him so I took my time, I held him up.
“I was thinking there is maybe some small question about the distance, so I didn’t want to go too soon, but after another 100 meters I came out and he answered me perfectly. And when he passed Scintillation, he quickened away immediately.”
Mosse, who won the International Sprint Trial-Hong Kong double on All Thrills Too in 2002, concluded, “Obviously, he is in international class. Now the most important thing is to be sure he is right on the right day and maintains his class.”
Miss Andretti, the Australian filly who is a runaway leader of the Global Sprint Challenge pointscore, has gone into quarantine in Melbourne and is regarded as the main danger to Sacred Kingdom Dec. 9. The winner will not only claim the lion’s share of the $12 million (HK) prizemoney but title of the world’s champion turf sprinter for the year as well.