Nothingilikemore lived up to his top billing with a confident victory in the HK$10 million Hong Kong Classic Mile at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday.
Joao Moreira steered the 1.6 favourite a wide passage into the home straight and Hong Kong’s latest star did the rest, quickening through the final 400m in an untouchable 22.90s to clock a winning time of 1m 34.24s. Singapore Sling chased to finish a length and a quarter second under Chad Schofield.
Joao Moreira sends Nothingilikemore (yellow and green) to the lead ahead of a wall of chasers in the Hong Kong Classic Mile, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
With the first leg of Hong Kong’s three-race Four-Year-Old Classic Series secured, the talented Husson gelding is set for next month’s follow-up, the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m). And trainer John Size sees the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) as a likely target, too.
“He’s going to run well in the 1800,” Size said. “The tempo’s going to be a bit different but he seems to be able to adapt to that once he settles and follows horses. I don’t think that will worry him and I’d envisage that he’d go to the Derby as well.”
The handler’s previous Hong Kong Classic Mile winner, Sun Jewellery, followed up in the Hong Kong Classic Cup in 2016 before running seventh in the BMW Hong Kong Derby.
Nothingilikemore went into today’s feature rated 10lb and more ahead of his rivals but the manner of victory, against the best of his peers, was impressive nonetheless.
“He keeps on surprising me every time that he goes out there. Each time that Nothingilikemore races, he’s more relaxed,” said Moreira, who won this race 12 months ago on Rapper Dragon and in 2014 atop Able Friend.
The bay, fresh and keen in the parade ring pre-race, was a model competitor once the starting gates opened. A sharp start had Moreira positioned front-rank, but as Ruthven powered to the fore under Alexis Badel, the Brazilian allowed his horse to settle back in mid-rank, one spot off the running rail.
“We were hoping that we could settle a bit closer but unfortunately horses around me were making me run, trying to get in, and I had to let them go,” Moreira revealed. “I didn't want to get inside of them and get pushed to the fence, so I had to give away that position. Once I got behind horses with cover, two off the fence, I was quite confident that I would have a full-on horse at the finish and that was the case.”
Nohingilikemore and Joao Moreira, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Size’s post-race observation summed it up: “He seems to be capable to travel in a field quite kindly and accelerate, so that’s all you really want in a racehorse.”
When Moreira shifted out on the sweep towards the home turn, Nothingilikemore quickened his rhythm.
“I was a bit concerned on the bend because he was kind of off the bridle but I know him very well and I knew that once I pulled him on the outside and gave him a clear run he’d dash home,” the champion jockey said.
“Once I got him on the outside he started to quicken and make a run himself, I didn't have to press the button,” he continued. “I turned for home pretty close to the leaders, which was the best spot to be anyway, I wanted to be on the outside. With 200 metres to go I knew I had the race won and I was delighted to be aboard him.”
Ruthven capitulated to Morethanlucky at the 400m mark and with 300m to race Nothingilikemore accelerated by the eventual third, freshman trainer Frankie Lor’s first starter in the race. Moreira echoed Size on the winner’s ability to handle the Hong Kong Classic Cup in a month’s time (18 February).
“He seems the type of horse that 1800 metres will not be a problem to him. He’s a very relaxed type of horse and I don't think another furlong is going to hammer him.”
Size said his horse is “still improving,” but Singapore Sling’s trainer Tony Millard was full of optimism that his charge might reverse placings in the Classic Cup next time. The South African import, a breakthrough winner at Happy Valley the time before, was having only his third Hong Kong outing against the winner’s record of six wins at race seven.
“The winner took two lengths off us at the top of the straight, because he is a speed horse, but Chad was wearing him down towards the line. This horse will go the trip next time – I’m not so sure the winner will,” Millard said.
Schofield added: “He ran a cracker. We had the run of the race, the speed was quite hot but I was able to get away and into clear running nice and early. The winner sprinted better than us, he put two lengths on us pretty quickly but in the final furlong I was taking ground back off the winner. Heading into the 1800 (metres) and the 2000 (metres), he’s right in it.”
Karis Teetan tracked the pace on Morethanlucky and was delighted to make the frame on a horse who went into the race rated 82, fully 30lb inferior to Nothingilikemore.
“Good run,” Teetan declared. “He had a nice lead in front of him and in the straight he gave me a nice kick.”
Second-favourite Exultant stayed on strongly from deep to take fourth under Zac Purton, while G1-winner Rivet kept on for fifth, three and a half lengths behind the winner.
The Hong Kong Classic Cup is the feature race at the Chinese New Year race meeting on Sunday 18 February.
Moreira starts the celebrations, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Hong Kong racing resumes at Sha Tin on Wednesday evening (24 January).