(edited Hong Kong Jockey Club report)
Sight Winner became the first horse to qualify for this year’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) through the international Breeders’ Cup Challenge series following his shocking victory over Egyptian Ra in the HK$12 million Champions Mile (HK-I) at soggy Sha Tin Race Course April 26.
Leading trainer John Size fielded four runners in the Champions Mile and came up trumps as Sight Winner, by far the largest-priced of the quartet, nipped Egyptian Ra by a short head.
The Champions Mile is the first international Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifying race of 2009. The New Zealand-bred Sight Winner has earned an automatic starting berth into the BC Mile at Santa Anita Park on Nov. 7.
Riding Sight Winner for the first time, Brett Prebble conjured a late burst from the Faltaat 5-year-old and prevailed by a short-head at odds of 64-1 from the more fancied front-runner Egyptian Ra, trained by Tony Cruz and ridden by Felix Coetzee.
The fast-finishing Australian runner Dao Dao finished just a head behind in third. Race favorites Good Ba Ba and Collection ran fourth and fifth respectively.
The entire 11-horse field finished within three lengths. Even so, the first two had it to themselves heading up the final straight.
Sight Winner was the first to show but Egyptian Ra took over before they had gone two furlongs, with Dao Dao tracking in third after they had gone three furlongs. In the straight, Egyptian Ra challenged Sight Winner while Dao Dao fell back. Egyptian Ra ran on well but it was only in the last strides that he narrowed the margin.
Dao Dao recovered in the final strides as well under strong handling to finish just a head behind the runner-up. Sight Winner's winning time was 1:34.97.
"It's a nice surprise but John seemed quietly confident in the paddock beforehand so that got my confidence up a little," said Prebble in the aftermath.
"We had a game plan to sit outside Egyptian Ra because we knew he would lead and at the top of straight I went past him. My fellow kept giving me more because he can stay 1,800 and 2,000 meters. He fought hard and he loved the ground – his action felt really comfortable on it."
"Two factors can explain the win," Size added. "The yielding track condition was extremely important and not letting Egyptian Ra get it too easy in front as he so often does was also vital."
In addition to the Breeders' Cup Mile, Sight Winner now finds himself inundated with other international options. He was already nominated for the Singapore Airlines International Cup on May 17 and will also earn an invite for the Yasuda Kinen, the fourth leg of the Asian Mile Challenge in Tokyo at the start of June.
"We'll see how he comes out of the race first and then we'll examine our options," Size said, "but it's possible we might go overseas with him."
This victory was Size's second international group I victory in Hong Kong having won the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup on this same program in 2004 with the similarly unfancied River Dancer.
"History should repeat itself more often," he smiled.
The victory was worth HK$6,840,000 to owner Mr. and Mrs. Tam Wing Kun.