Win Bright conquered Sha Tin this afternoon (Sunday, 28 April), powering home in the HK$24 million FWD QEII Cup and lowering the 2000-metre track record.
The grey became the first horse to dip below 1m 59.00s, stopping the clock at 1m 58.81s as he earned a first top level win. Yoshihiro Hatakeyama’s five-year-old became the latest Japanese raider to make the QEII Cup honour roll, following Eishin Preston (2002 & 2003), Rulership (2012) and Neorealism (2017).
The first eight horses dipped below two minutes, just 14 months after Time Warp – 11th today after attempting to make all – became the first to break that mark.
“On Wednesday morning Win Bright galloped and clocked a fast time, so it was not unexpected that he could run a fast time today,” jockey Masami Matsuoka said of the 47/1 outsider.
The rider had not won a G1 since Meiner Kitz landed the Tenno Sho (Spring) all of 10 years ago. But he looked the part of a top-flight regular on his first ride at Sha Tin, cruising coolly along the rail in mid-pack, switching out in the straight and pushing his mount to victory with the vigour of a man ready to end that decade-long drought.
“This is the very best day!” he said. “He didn’t have good gate speed this time but we found a good spot and the horse travelled nicely and that helped him run very well to the finish.”
Win Bright drives to victory
Trainer Hatakeyama – like Matsuoka and the Stay Gold entire’s owner, Win Racing Club – was competing in Hong Kong for the first time. The handler set his sights firmly on this race after Win Bright’s defeat of five G1 winners in the G2 Nakayama Kinen in February.
“He had won at Group 2 and Group 3 level but had always been beaten in Group 1 races, but his winning form from his two starts this season made me think that he was developing and improving,” he said.
“I was quite sure that he would be competitive at the top level. I couldn’t be confident that he would win, of course, but I did think he would be very competitive.”
Hatakeyama believes his charge benefitted from a spell between his last run and today’s victory. Win Bright had looked fresh and eager for action during track work this week.
“Last year, after the Nakayama Kimpai, he went to the Osaka Hai but he hadn’t had a break from the end of the previous season,” the trainer said. “This year, we skipped the Osaka Hai and then set this as our target. That meant that we sent him to the pre-training farm for a rest before this race and that was a very good routine for him. That freshness helped him.
“My only concern was the humid, hot weather in Hong Kong,” he continued, mopping his brow, “but he had done regular routine trackwork, nothing special and things went well throughout the week.”
“I hope he will gain more power and develop and we would love to come back in December for the Hong Kong Cup.”
Win Bright drove past last year’s winner Pakistan Star with 70 metres to race and had momentum enough to hold Hong Kong’s star stayer Exultant by three quarters of a length. The Tony Cruz-trained gelding edged third-place Lys Gracieux by a short-head, the pair having been split by a neck when first and second in December’s G1 Hong Kong Vase.”
“It wasn’t a perfect race and Zac (Purton) said if he’d had an inside draw it might have been a different story, but he’s run a very good race. I knew the Japanese were the ones to beat, they love coming here,” Cruz said.
Oisin Murphy flew in to partner Lys Gracieux and the Irishman was delighted with the five-year-old.
“I’m thrilled with her, I was very happy during the race and I thought I had a good run off the back of Dark Dream, when I switched out in the straight I thought she might be good enough to win,” he said.
“Fair play to the other Japanese horse, Matsuoka saved ground the whole way and the horse was too good on the day. Hopefully one day she’ll get an elusive win here, but what a tough and consistent mare!”