SINGAPORE TURF CLUB RELEASE – Less than an hour after the Hong Kong-trained Lucky Nine captured the KrisFlyer International Sprint, the Bauhinia flag was hoisted a second time when Military Attack scored a thumping win in the $3 million International Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup (2000m) on Sunday night.
While the KrisFlyer was going to Hong Kong for the third time after Sacred Kingdom and Green Birdie pulled off the feat in 2009 and 2010 respectively, Military Attack became the first horse from the former British colony to land the SIA Cup in its 13 years of existence.
Ridden by Hong Kong-based Australian jockey Zac Purton, the Irish-bred five-year-old by Oratorio more than justified his second favourite tag of $17 by making light work of a 13-horse field widely regarded as the best SIA Cup line-up ever gathered, defeating stablemate Dan Excel (Weichong Marwing) by three-and-a-quarter-lengths to hand his trainer John Moore a most memorable quinella, but more significantly to the six-time Hong Kong champion trainer, a first win in the glamour showpiece he had tried several times to take home.
Choking with emotion at the winner’s dais, the 63-year-old Australian handler who has worked in Hong Kong for more than 40 years said Military Attack’s win in the 13th running of the SIA Cup was the “icing on the cake”.
“I’ve finally got the icing on the cake! I’ve been trying to win this race for years and I’ve finally done it,” said Moore whose previous raiders were runner-ups Zaidan (2012) and Irian (2011) along with attempts at the KrisFlyer with Happy Zero (3rd in 2010) and Inspiration (unplaced in 2009).
“I’ve always liked coming to Singapore from the days I used to ride here for Garnet Bougoure at Bukit Timah in the Pro-Am races.
“I loved my stay here and always had very fond memories of the track and the country. I always told dad (late legendary jockey and Hong Kong trainer George Moore) that Singapore has changed to a very professional racing nation.”
After heaping praise on the host country, Moore did not fail to later toast his resounding success to both Australia and Hong Kong by letting out a loud: “Up the Aussies, up Hong Kong!” and gleefully taking a swig of the champagne after receiving his winning trophy on stage.
The race itself went without any hitch for Military Attack who settled beautifully in fourth, never losing sight of the early pacemakers, first made up of local hope Flax (Manoel Nunes) before he handed up to Russian galloper Meandre (Khamzat Ulubaev) when the latter came whipping around in the backstraight to inject some speed into the race.
After initially dropping back to the rear from his wide alley, $15 favourite Pastorius then circled the field at the 1500m to also show his intentions to keep up a decent tempo to the pace.
The dynamics of the race was given no respite when roughie Mull Of Killough (George Baker) also joined the fray three wide and as the field swung for home, a line of four gallopers could realistically vie for the top prize.
Flax, had already shown the white flag before the hometurn, while Mull Of Killough peaked on his run. Singapore’s best hope Better Life (Alan Munro), who had settled at the rear, looked like she had left her devastating turn of foot at the stables as she was not seen making much headway.
It was at that moment that Purton pushed the button and Military Attack just exploded away hard up against the rails.
Such was the blistering acceleration of the Irish-bred up the Kranji home straight that Purton could afford to turn off the gas 100m out, giving two peeks over the shoulders just to make sure nothing else was making a late charge. Dan Excel stuck on well for second after being well placed throughout, staving off the stinging challenge from the first local horse, ex-Australian-based German-bred stayer Mawingo (Hugh Bowman).
Military Attack has now brought up his record to 10 wins from 22 starts for stakes earnings close to $4.8 million after he took home prizemoney of $1.7 million on Sunday. But to Moore, he has first and foremost become the horse who has put him and his family, who is steeped in horse-racing history, on the world map, as the SIA Cup was also his first international winner – and has also whetted his appetite for other faraway goals.
“To travel all the way here and stay in this heat and break the two-minute mark (1 min 59.58secs) shows how much this horse has thrived,” he said.
“Four runs back, there were even some queries about him, but he’s turned the corner and has become a really serious horse.
“Zac wanted to bring about some tactical changes when he started riding him and it seems to have worked. Honestly, I didn’t expect he would win so easily as there were some really strong horses in the field.
“When Pastorius was going nowhere, we were caught behind, and Zac nearly ended up on heels. But he just blitzed them once he found the gap to win easing down.
“I would now love to send him to the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) in October in Australia. I know it’s tough with the two weeks (quarantine) at Werribee, but he has shown he could travel.
“And the Cox Plate would be nice as I would love nothing more than to win a Group race in my own country. I’ve actually already discussed with (owner) Steven Lo and I believe the organisers will soon send all the paraphernalia to him.”
While previous winners of the Group 1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup such as Presvis have raced in the SIA Cup next up, Military Attack is the first to achieve the APQEII Cup – SIA Cup double.
Purton, who has been riding on an incredible whirlwind of success, first giving perennial Hong Kong champion Douglas Whyte a big fight in the jockey’s championship, then landing big-race wins in England (Little Bridge in the King’s Stand) and Hong Kong (Ambitious Dragon in the Longines Hong Kong Mile among others), not to mention winning a jockeys’ series in Japan, was shaking his head in disbelief at the winner’s circle.
“They said it was the strongest race they have ever been able to assemble and it is scary to think how much he has improved in the last three or four months,” said the former Brisbane champion jockey who moved to Hong Kong in 2007.
“I came here thinking I had a good chance. I would have been happy just to win, but to blow them away like that is a phenomenal performance.
“All night, horses near the speed have been favoured and historically this race is not really run at a fast tempo although tonight it turned out to be a little bit different.
“I just began and put myself in a good position and I let Pastorius come around me at the 1500m and of course I thought he was the right horse to be following.
“My horse was just a little bit unbalanced and I thought if I put him on the fence it will just give him something to keep him more tractable.
“They were going at a good tempo and for a second, I thought it could be his undoing. But then, from the 700m, I was looking once again to get on the back of Pastorius thinking he would drag me into the race.
“But I could see he was gone and Dan Excel was travelling really well and Mawingo was pinching ground and saving time getting runs.
“Then the saloon passage just opened up for me and he did the rest. I couldn’t believe how far ahead he was and in the end I just let him idle to the line.
“The last 12 months have been amazing. I won in UK, then the Hong Kong Mile, the Super Series in Japan, ran a close second to Joao Moreira in the series at Happy Valley, and now this!
“If next year is as good as this, I’ll be a very happy man.”
Moore also spared a special word for his valiant runner-up Dan Excel, who arrived in Singapore on the back of a victory in the Group 1 Champions Mile, given he always knew he would play second fiddle in the SIA Cup.
“He’s a solid Group 2 horse. His last win was a very good effort and I’m proud of his placegetting run tonight,” said Moore who had his son George by his side at the winner’s circle.
“I’d also like to thank George and my staff, who have done all the work with them. The two horses came very early last Sunday and they’ve been here right through. Mission accomplished!”