Beat The Clock lands Centenary Sprint Cup
Timing is everything, especially when you are riding a horse called Beat The Clock, and Joao Moreira judged the fractions perfectly when claiming his first Group 1 for John Size in Sunday's Centenary Sprint Cup (1,200m) at Sha Tin.
John Size's gelding had shown all the reliability of a vintage Swiss timepiece - placing in all 17 previous starts - but four Group 1 ventures had seen him come up short, including when dead-heating for second with Mr Stunning behind D B Pin in this race last year.
That pair loomed as his main rivals again and Moreira faced a tricky choice between Beat The Clock and fellow Size star D B Pin, which was resolved when both horses trialled just over a week ago.
D B Pin clocked much faster finishing splits when chasing home Mr Stunning on that cool Friday morning, but Moreira sensed something that wasn't detectable on the stopwatch in the way Beat The Clock powered clear of an ordinary field from the front.
There was no need to make the running this time, as Little Giant and D B Pin set a true early pace and Beat The Clock stalked on the rails into the straight with Mr Stunning pushed along in midfield by Karis Teetan.
Beat The Clock gave D B Pin a brief nudge as he was eased outside with 300m to run but quickened on demand soon after.
Mr Stunning showed all his trademark courage to throw a strong challenge, but the winner never looked like surrendering and held on by a neck in a winning time of 1min 8.42sec, just less than a second outside of Sacred Kingdom's record set in 2007.
Moreira was thrilled to gain a first win at the top level in Hong Kong since Season's Bloom's Stewards' Cup success on this card a year earlier, though the Brazilian felt the race didn't go exactly as expected.
"Things went quite differently than we thought," he said. "I didn't think Little Giant would lead, but fortunately I was able to get through on his outside and my bloke just attacked the line very strongly. The last 100 metres he started to pull up and wait for the others but he was too good. He had that burst of speed and good horses do that."
Size, who was saddling his first Group 1 winner since Ivictory won the Chairman's Sprint Prize last April, said: "Beat The Clock has taken his time to break through to Group 1 level, but he always promised to do that and today the race was suitable for him and he managed to salute." - HKJC