Jenny - Clean

THE story of Sacred Kingdom’s career has been one of a succession of daunting peaks successfully scaled. Now the reigning Horse of the Year and former world champion sprinter faces yet another mountain to climb as he bids to join the only sprinter in Hong Kong racing history whose reputation matches his own.

If the Ricky Yiu-trained champion succeeds in taking the 1200m HKG1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize – second leg of the Hong Kong Speed Series – at the Chinese New Year meeting this Saturday, he will join the unforgettable Silent Witness at the summit of Hong Kong achievement with 18 victories to his name.

Currently sharing that record total with Silent Witness, although not perhaps the status, is Super Win back in the 1970s. Sacred Kingdom will join the pair, with the chance of surpassing both, at least in numerical terms, if he can deliver yet another Group One victory this weekend.

Ranged against him are what might almost be referred to as the usual suspects, many of whom he has beaten more than a few times in his career.

But they are top class horses nevertheless and not to be taken lightly by a star who has had some tough races since his comeback from the stomach surgery he underwent almost a year ago.

Sacred Kingdom’s own partner Brett Prebble has admitted that the lightning acceleration which has broken so many opponents since and before he reached the top of the world sprinting tree in 2007 is still there. “But it doesn’t last quite as long as it did when he was a five-year-old,” he said.

To some there may have been a hint even in his business-like success in the first leg of the Speed Series, the HKG1 Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup on 16 January, that his formidable powers might be beginning to wane.

Once he might have been expected to stretch effortlessly away after mowing down his field in that 1000m test. This time it seemed almost as though he felt he’d done enough in hitting the front. That run followed his defeat by two formidable invaders on 12 December in the G1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint, a race he’d won the last two times he’d contested it.

His trainer has no doubts about his abilities. “He’s seven now,” Yiu accepts. “But according to his jockey there’s no problem with him. As far as I’m concerned it makes no difference whether he runs at 1000m or 1200m. He’s just as good at both, and he’s very well in every way after that run last month.”

Out to test Sacred Kingdom’s athleticism and enthusiasm in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize will be a rising star in the John Moore-trained Let Me Fight, fourth from an unfavourable draw in that renewal of the CXHK Sprint.

“Darren (Beadman) and I have had a chat about the race and we felt that Let Me Fight would be the one of our three he ought to ride,” says Moore. “Judging from his run in the international sprint he’s improving. He’s trialled very well, and if there are any weaknesses in Sacred Kingdom’s armour we’re going in with the intention of finding them.”

Moore added that his other pair One World and Dim Sum were also in with good chances. “One World is still under a bit of a cloud after his poor run in the international after a setback beforehand, but back to his best he’d be a definite threat.  Dim Sum [winner of Saturday’s race in 2009 with Sacred Kingdom only third] continues to run very well, and on his three quarter length second to Sacred Kingdom in the Centenary Sprint Cup he has to be in with a chance.”

Others who may test the champ for flaws include Green Birdie, who has yet to find his best form since his autumn foray to Japan but certainly has the ability at his best, as he proved when beating Sacred Kingdom’s dual conqueror Rocket Man on his Singapore home turf last May.

Joy And Fun could be a threat if back to top form after his summer injury, and Brave Kid with whom John Size is persisting for the time being at least over sprint distances could also be a danger.

But the real focus of attention will be the old champ in his bid to join Silent Witness on 18 victories. He’s won two of the last three renewals of the Chairman’s Sprint Prize. There will bring a huge roar from Sha Tin’s bumper CNY crowd if he goes on to make it three out of four.



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