Jenny - Clean
HONG Kong's and the world's top sprinter Sacred Kingdom proved his class yet again when he ran out a smart winner in the Hong Kong Group 1 Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup, the first leg of the Hong Kong Speed Series, at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday.

However, the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile winner Good Ba Ba was denied yet another hat-trick of victories in the first leg of the Triple Crown, the domestic Group 1 Stewards' Cup, when a fast-finishing third to Fellowship and Thumbs Up in this mile event.

Sacred Kingdom, the odds-on favorite in the 1000m sprint, was kept behind the early pace set by his stablemate, Ultra Fantasy, before unleashing a strong finishing burst over the final 300 metres to complete the 1000m trip in a fast time of 55.37 seconds.

''He's like that," said jockey Brett Prebble. "He's a little lazy so I gave him three smacks to keep his mind on his job. He then lengthened good and his ability told in the end. He is the best sprinter in the world, after all."

Ricky Yiu, who trained both the winner and the runner-up, Ultra Fantasy, said Sacred Kingdom's next mission will be the Chairman's Sprint Prize on 21 February after which he is keeping his options open.

"There are several races he can contest in Singapore, Dubai or even Japan," he said. "We shall see how he goes in the Chairman's Sprint Prize before making a decision."

Yiu said runner-up Ultra Fantasy is by the same sire as Sacred Kingdom and ran above his best to hold the champion to three-quarters of a length at the line.

John Moore, trainer of One World who finished a game third after chasing the leader from the start, said the horse did his best but really needs a longer trip to show his quality.

Green Birdie, having only his second race start for the season, finished a distant fourth and trainer Caspar Fownes said he will be a lot fitter next time.

In the Hong Kong Group 1 Stewards' Cup, Fellowship lived up to the promise he showed last month when finishing third to Good Ba Ba in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile, giving jockey Zac Purton his first Hong Kong Group 1 success.

Worse than midfield in the early running, Fellowship slowly crept up on the field at the top of the straight, broke through with about 200 metres to go and then held off the fast-finishing Thumbs Up to win by a head. Good Ba Ba finished third, a half length further back with Special Days fourth.

"I've been finishing second and third in Group 1 races so it is nice to win one for a change," Purton said. "I thought we had the race won some distance out but then he started to prick his ears when he heard the other horse coming and I had to shake him up a bit."

Trainer Paul O'Sullivan, who is attending the Yearling Sales in New Zealand, said in a long distance call he was more then delighted the horse had proved his Group credentials.

"I have said before he is a genuine Group horse but he kept running into an ultra fit Good Ba Ba," he said. "He's turned the tables this time."

O'Sullivan said Fellowship will now be aimed at the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup on 14 March and the Champions Mile on 25 April.

"He has run close to many Group One horses so he deserves this. I couldn't be happier as he has performed extremely well. Actually his bodyweight is the same as when he won the Cathay Pacific International Mile Trial. He is a big horse but luckily he had a clear run," he added.

Trainer Danny Shum thought Thumbs Up was a little unlucky not to have won but said he will still go on to the next two Triple Crown races, the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup on 28 February and the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup on 30 May.

Good Ba Ba, who drew the widest gate, got back in the field and had plenty to do in the closing stages. "It's just the luck of the draw," his trainer Derek Cruz sighed.




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