FORMER Sydney dominator and now Hong Kong hero Darren Beadman upstaged Australian sprinter of the year Apache Cat when scoring a knockout win in yesterday’s $HK12 million ($2.36m) HK Sprint at Sha Tin.
While odds-on favourite Apache Cat, ridden by Corey Brown and trained by Victoria-based Greg Eurell, rallied late to run a close-up third, it was left to Beadman and Hong Kong’s leading trainer John Moore, also an Australian, to win the sprint with Inspiration.
An outsider at $67, Inspiration was only included in the sprint late by Moore, who quipped: "I only put him in here for the run. But today Darren’s given him the best ride of the century and he’s pulled it off."
Apache Cat ($1.90) bounced into the box seat trailing the speed early and Brown eased him around into the clear on straightening.
"I had to change course when the winner came across me but he [Apache Cat] was going through that flat spot he always has at the time," Brown said of the half-length defeat. "There was a bit of interference caused but I don’t think it cost me the race.
"I thought he ran very well and he had every chance."
Eurell said the only disappointment he had was that Apache Cat "had to get rolling again" when Inspiration and eventual runner-up Green Birdie were hitting the line full of momentum. "With a clear run it would have been a bit more interesting," Eurell said.
The trainer said the fact Apache Cat was taking time to "work through his gears" might indicate "he could have been looking for 1400m". "By the time he’d hit his top the others had already hit theirs," he said. "But the way he blended into the run he still had every opportunity to win."
Beadman said he was happy and "smoking my pipe" when tracking Apache Cat into the race and when he was travelling so easily nearing the turn he thought an upset was on the cards. "I didn’t think he’d sprint as good as he did but once I peeled off the back of Apache Cat he let down really well," Beadman said.
"He kept going strongly and he’s a deserving winner. I knew I was on a horse that was fit and well. John has kept him very fresh and couldn’t have had him any better."
Beadman is the retained rider in Hong Kong for Moore with the pair enjoying a fantastic season in which Moore is the runaway premiership leader and Beadman is second in the jockeys’ standings behind South African Douglas Whyte. "I wasn’t expecting this, I can assure you," Moore said of Inspiration’s victory.
Apache Cat will head home to Victoria in the coming weeks but Eurell said that given his showing in Hong Kong more international sojourns were likely. "The way he has handled this trip I will seriously have to look at others with him now," Eurell said. "There are a couple of nice sprints back home for him in the autumn but all going well we will look at Singapore [KrisFlyer Sprint] and then Royal Ascot [King’s Stand Stakes and Golden Jubilee] with him."
Former world champion sprinter Takeover Target, which defeated Apache Cat in the Winterbottom Stakes in Perth two weeks ago before winning the Scahill Stakes there at the weekend, has enjoyed previous success both in Singapore and Royal Ascot in the UK, as well as Japan.
Apache Cat had won five straight group 1 races last season which ensured he won the Australian sprinter-of-the-year award but when he resumed in the Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup carnival he ran the worst race of his career when unplaced behind Swick.
"The main thing is we have got him back from that unexplained performance," Eurell said. "I drove home after that Flemington run and certainly didn’t think I’d be standing here today in Hong Kong with him. While he hasn’t won he has still run extremely well and I’m very proud of the horse."