Military Attack outmaneuvers Blazing Speed in Jockey Club Cup

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

November 21st, 2015

While reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year Able Friend was overturned in the Jockey Club Mile (G2), a former Horse of the Year recaptured his past glory in Saturday’s Jockey Club Cup (G2) at Sha Tin. Military Attack halted a six-race losing streak when besting Blazing Speed in a pulsating finish that was eerily similar to the 2014 running – only that day, it was Blazing Speed who came out on top.

Although winless since last fall’s Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy (G2), Military Attack had turned in some fine efforts in defeat. After his near-miss in this race, a prep for the Hong Kong Cup (G1), he was just touched off by Designs on Rome in the Cup itself. In May, he finished second in the Singapore Airlines International Cup (G1) at Kranji, and he returned to action with a third as the defending champion (and co-133-pound highweight) in the October 25 Sha Tin Trophy.

In his heyday, Military Attack was a devastating force, downing international casts in the 2013 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Sha Tin and the Singapore Airlines Cup, as well as winning consecutive editions of the Hong Kong Gold Cup (2013-14). Various physical problems have made it difficult for him to return to that level, but judging by Saturday’s performance, perhaps trainer Caspar Fownes has his guns blazing once more.

Although Top Act and Helene Super Star flashed speed in the opening strides, familiar pace factor Khaya eventually worked his way forward and carved out tepid fractions of :26.42, :50.50 and1:15.52. Blazing Speed, initially racing alongside the rail-hugging Military Attack just about midpack, crept into fourth. Poised to strike at the top of the stretch, Blazing Speed swept ahead and tried to put the race away.

But Military Attack, by this time maneuvered off the fence by Zac Purton, was kicking into gear. Finding the sharper turn of foot with a final 400 meters (about a quarter-mile) in :22.34, he dethroned the defending champion by a head. No doubt assisted by the five-pound weight concession from Blazing Speed, Military Attack completed about 1 1/4 miles in 2:01.84.

Blazing Speed was affected by more than his 128-pound impost and a wide trip. It was later discovered that he’d thrown his right hind shoe in midrace, and came back with a “small wound to the outside heel of that foot,” according to the racing incident report. If that turns out to be minor, and quickly resolved, Blazing Speed could be sitting on an even better performance in the December 13 Hong Kong Cup.

The same holds true for his younger stablemate from the Tony Cruz yard, Beauty Only, who ran a terrific race for third. With something to prove at this trip, and entered only because his owners wanted to keep him apart from Beauty Flame (who upset Able Friend in the Jockey Club Mile), Beauty Only was patiently ridden from the rear. Despite the course’s not favoring deep closers on the day, and the dawdling tempo, he rolled late to join the fray and went down by just three-quarters of a length. On the other hand, the sit-and-sprint played to his strengths, and he could prove vulnerable in a more truly-run test in the Hong Kong Cup. At any rate, he’s boosted his credentials, and very much earned another crack at the distance.

The respective fourth and fifth, Helene Happy Star and Dominant, did their best work late. Both John Moore trainees would have rounded off their preparations for the December 13 Hong Kong Vase (G1) over 1 1/2 miles.

Helene Super Star, in contrast, folded tamely and trudged home last. Nothing was immediately found by the post-race veterinary inspection, but we may know more in a couple of days.

Quotes from Hong Kong Jockey Club

Trainer Caspar Fownes on Military Attack: “The five pounds was huge today but I really feel he’ll strip a lot fitter and be cherry ripe on the big day, so fingers crossed he pulls up all right.

"He’s had a lot of problems. Last season it was his feet and this time it’s his joints and a suspensory. It’s been a battle, day in and day out. The vets have done a great job, and my team as well, they’ve worked really hard. Everyone has put in the hours to just get that result for the owners and for the fans in Hong Kong.

"He’s getting on in age but I’m sure he’ll still be a force on the big day. I’d say he’ll strip a little bit fitter from this run, as I’m sure the second horse will - that was a big run from him, too. I’ll try to have him the best I can on the day.”

Jockey Zac Purton on Military Attack: “I would have liked to have been on the outside and travelled a little bit easier. But when we found ourselves on the fence I just had to wait for the run to come and I know he’s got a good turn-of-foot. I could feel through the run that he was quite comfortable and I knew he would give me a good kick when I asked him.

“He’s a horse that’s always been close to my heart. I’ve been riding him for a number of seasons now, on and off, so it’s good to get another nice win on him. Last season he had a good season but Caspar had a struggle with his feet, he had a lot of problems but he seems to be on top of it this season, and if that’s the case, hopefully he can go a head better in December this year and get the job done for us.”


Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club.