(from Hong Kong Jockey Club report)
International racing's longest winning streak of recent years bit the dust in the very final strides of Saturday's Champions Mile (HK-I) as stablemate Bullish Luck wrested the lead from the hitherto undefeated Silent Witness to score by a short head.
Sooner or later, it just had to happen. Nevertheless, a hush descended over Sha Tin Race Course as Hong Kong racing fans came to terms with the sinking feeling that their hero had succumbed to his stable companion in a gripping finish after a run of 17 straight wins.
Tackling a mile for the first time, the world's top ranked turf sprinter had rolled to the front and led by about one length early, covering the backstretch in sectionals of 24.7 and 22.6 seconds. It was a familiar sight as he turned for home with his jockey Felix Coetzee motionless and with much of the field toiling in his walk. An 18th consecutive looked a distinct possibility.
But at the furlong pole the threats emerged. Bullish Luck made rapid headway on the fence and Ain't Here loomed on the outside. Renowned for his lethal kick, Bullish Luck sustained the run under a powerful Gerald Mosse drive and headed his vaunted stable mate in the shadow of the post. The time of 1:33.7 was very fast, just four-tenths of seconds off a track record that has stood for over two decades.
Silent Witness certainly lost no caste in defeat to such an accomplished miler as Bullish Luck, winner of the Stewards' Cup (HK-I) and the Chairman's Trophy (HK-II) over this distance in recent months.
Tony Cruz trains both the first two finishers.
"I told Gerald Mosse (on Bullish Luck) to move on the outside but he gambled on going inside," Cruz said. "If he had gone on the outside, Silent Witness would have won. It will be back to sprints with Silent Witness next season but in my heart he is still a champion.
"I'm a bit disappointed for Silent Witness but I'm happy in that I train Bullish Luck, too, and his owner Wong Wing-keung is a very good friend of mine," added the trainer.
Bullish Luck is now set for the second leg of the Asian Mile Challenge, the Yasuda Kinen (HK-I), in Tokyo on June 5 but owner Archie da Silva indicated that Silent Witness would not make the trip.
"He needs a break now and he will come back next season. We'll have another crack at this race again next year," he said.
"I'm very proud of him because he has proven that he can run a mile. There is a strong headwind down the back straight and that has been costing leaders with no cover all day and I think that played a part," added da Silva.
Mosse is expected to take the mount on Bullish Luck in the (U.S.) $2 million Yasuda Kinen, and should he win there, connections will pocket a bonus of (U.S) $1 million.
The winning jockey said: "He showed a fantastic turn of foot and he ran down Silent Witness. Not many do that."
Ain't Here ran two lengths back in third but the British mare Attraction was a major disappointment, finishing 11th. "She missed the break a bit, but she was very lethargic overall and that's not her. She pulled up very tired," jockey Kevin Darley said.
Delzao, the Australian runner, failed to overcome his wide draw and finished in eighth, while the Japanese raider Cosmo Bulk raced wide and capitulated in the homestretch.