Contentment won a dramatic HK$16 million Champions Mile at Sha Tin this afternoon, Sunday, 7 May. John Size’s charge battled to a neck verdict under Brett Prebble and survived an objection to seal a second Group 1 triumph, this time at odds of 25/1.
Zac Purton, rider of runner-up Beauty Only, lodged a grievance and the ensuing Stewards’ Inquiry raised tension among the crowd, but it was a jubilant Prebble that jogged back out to receive the silverware.
“I was pretty confident,” Prebble said afterwards. “Zac didn’t stop riding.”
That aside, the Australian ace enjoyed a propitious run on the “quirky” six-year-old. Contentment is accustomed to leading the field, and up front was where Prebble found himself after breaking smartly from gate 1 in the seven-runner contest; but when English raider Stormy Antarctic, over-racing in first-time blinkers, thundered by at the 900m point, the two-time Melbourne champion was happy to take the slipstream.
“The race didn’t go to plan, I was a little shuffled up around mid-race but that actually worked out well because he hasn’t had a bunny to chase for a while,” Prebble said.
Stormy Antarctic was all out at the top of the home straight as Helene Paragon unleashed an early kick to edge the lead. But Contentment was not for bowing and, presented with a new quarry and urged on by a mighty Prebble drive, the Hussonet gelding boxed to the fore deep inside the final furlong. Beauty Only charged late down the inner.
“When Helene Paragon shot to the front quite early, that gave him an extra bunny to guide him along and give him something to look at,” Prebble said. “He has a tendency to gaze around at things in the final stages – that’s why he had the blinkers on last time but they didn't work out so the pacifiers were back on.
“When he got to the front today, he was waiting again and looking, and when Beauty Only came to him he dug deep again. He’s a quirky horse but he’s definitely got that performance there when he can give it to us – 100 percent of the credit goes to John; he’s a genius.”
It was a third Champions Mile success for Prebble following wins on Bullish Luck (2006) and the Size-trained Sight Winner (2009).
Contentment and Brett Prebble, picture Liesl King
Contentment stopped the clock at 1m 35.23s as he scored a first victory since his previous G1 score in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) back in March, 2016. The Australian-bred, runner-up to Maurice in last year’s Champions Mile, had raced consistently through nine defeats this term without returning to his peak.
“The track condition was the difference this afternoon,” Size said after claiming a third win in the race (2003 Electronic Unicorn, 2009 Sight Winner). “It just feels a little bit softer underfoot and that might have helped.”
And a return trip to Tokyo in June for the G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) looks to be on the cards for the winner. Contentment was a below-par 12th in the Japanese race last year.
“After winning this race, I’m sure, if the owner’s agreeable, we’ll go to Japan,” Size offered.
The John Moore-trained Helene Paragon, having peaked on his run at the furlong marker, held on for third place, a half-length behind Beauty Only. Jockey Tommy Berry was candid post-race.
“I’d seen Beauty Only and Rapper Dragon were behind me so I thought, at the top of the straight, I’d steal a march,” he said. “I wasn't worried about getting out early but I probably should have sat a little bit longer because he was found wanting late on. I’ve ridden him with a plan to beat the favourite and that’s got me beaten. He’s done a great job to run third.”
The Danny Shum-trained Circuit Land ran a game fourth as the Ed Walker-trained Stormy Antarctic faded to fifth under Karis Teetan and fellow British raider Convey, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, was a never-dangerous nine and a half lengths sixth of the finishers.
The post-race atmosphere was anxious even before the objection notice was raised. The crowd had gasped when, with 750m to race, Rapper Dragon, the BMW Hong Kong Derby winner and 1.4 favourite, went lame. Joao Moreira’s mount was racing at the tail of the pack and stopped abruptly.
Rapper Dragon received immediate treatment from the on-course veterinarians and walked into the horse ambulance. The Moore-trained gelding was taken to the on-site Equine Hospital where he was diagnosed with a fractured pelvis.
Head of Veterinary Clinical Services, Dr Christopher Riggs, said: “Rapper Dragon suffered a severe fracture of his pelvis which, unfortunately, was coupled with serious complications. Despite our intensive care in the equine hospital, we were unable to save him.”
Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chief Executive Officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to all of those involved in the life and care of Rapper Dragon, in particular, owner Albert Hung and his family.”