ENGLISH trainer Sean Woods stunned an 85,000-strong Chinese New Year crowd when his British import King Dancer came from well back in the field to beat the strongly supported Super Satin and ranging favourite Beauty Flash in the Hong Kong Group 2 Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby Trial over 1800m at Sha Tin on Tuesday.

The betting turnover on the day reached a staggering HK$1,161 million, which rose by 10.4 percent when compared to the turnover in last year’s Chinese New Year raceday. A sum of HK$141 million from today’s turnover is attributed to the Government as betting duty, while another HK$54 million is shared by the Club as gross margin.

Woods said after the race he always had confidence in the son of Danehill Dancer though early setbacks had made the task of getting him right a little harder.

"It was nice to see him coming through as he had a bit of luck this time," Woods said. "I have been very confident with this horse from last year, to be honest. Things haven't gone quite right but we haven't pushed any buttons because the Derby is a long way from the start of the season. We really got stuck into him this last couple of weeks and everything has come together well, though he is still very playful."

Woods said the Derby distance of 2000m would suit the horse even better though eventually his best distance will be 2200m to 2400m.

Big race jockey Gerald Mosse said the owner and trainer may have got a little worried as King Dancer got further back than he expected in the early running but he did not want to push the horse and allowed him to run where he was comfortable.

He said the horse is a fighter and he was now looking ahead to the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby on 14 March.

``I will be on him, he looks like he has progressed each time he has raced and the distance will not be a problem," he said.

Owner Peter Chu Ka Lok was delighted to win the Derby Trial and he highly appreciated the team effort.

"We planned the horse to run in the Hong Kong Derby early this season and Sean (Woods) and the jockey did a good preparation," Chu said. "He has a great turn of foot."

Super Satin looked the winner at the 200m mark but could not hold off the late finish of King Dancer and had to be content with being the runner-up.

Nevertheless, trainer Caspar Fownes said he was not disappointed as the horse had shown he had the necessary potential.

Having kept behind the fast pace set by his stablemate California Memory and John Size's Tuscan Spirit, trainer Tony Cruz's Beauty Flash finished third in this Hong Kong Group 2 event, at a margin of half a length behind race winner King Dancer. Despite the defeat, his next mission remains the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby.

Trainer John Moore's Irian was doing his best work at the finish and he could improve on this run on Derby day.

Fownes had earlier in the day disclosed a possible Derby trump card when his Australian purchase Fair Trade kept his unbeaten record intact by recording his fourth successive victory.

The son of Danewin had won twice in Flemington in Australia before arriving in Hong Kong where he won first up and then made it two from two today with a come-from-behind neck victory over Express Win in the Chinese New Year Cup.

The Lunar New Year festivities began earlier in the day with a variety show featuring popular TV artiste Charmaine Sheh and singer Ella Koon, celebrity chef Chow Chung and feng shui master Mak Ling Ling

HKSAR Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun Wah, Hong Kong Jockey Club Chairman Dr John Chan, Club Stewards and Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges then got the ball rolling when they officiated at the eye-dotting ceremony prior to the traditional lion dance.

There was also a gold exhibition by Chow Tai Fook and several sets of the Wheel Of Fortune for racegoers to wish for good luck.

The day ended with a spectacular closing parade which included the San Diego Charger Girls, the Dance Ensemble Siverco from Russia, Italy's Arezzo Flag Wavers and the Hong Kong Police Band.




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