The stands exploded top, bottom and centre with jubilant screams and whoops of joy as race third pick Bullish Luck sprinted into the lead. He was headed for obvious victory in the Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo Racecourse today. Trainer Tony Cruz, on his feet as his horse turned for home, stood up, his hands held high, and pumped his arms forward as his champion beat the competition to the winning post.
Bullish Luck crossed the line 2 1/2 lengths ahead of race defending champion Asakusa Den'en, who finished a nose ahead of Joyful Winner.
The win of the Yasuda Kinen was the second for Hong Kong after Fairy King Prawn's victory in 2000. "This is a great success for Hong Kong and Hong Kong racing in general," said HKJC Executive Director of Racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges. "Congratulations to Mr. Wong, Tony and Brett. This shows that our policy in taking Hong Kong horses international is the right one. Our strategy will surely reap more riches in the future."
Over 80 Hong Kong fans, in addition to a huge entourage accompanying Bullish Luck 's owner Wong Wing Keung, were nearly overcome with the excitement. Back at the weighing room, winning jockey Brett Prebble gave an enormous flying dismount into the arms of Cruz as Wong continued to scream in near hysteria. One hundred million yen and one million US dollars had just landed at their feet.
"When I saw him come out for a clear run, I knew he had won the race," Cruz crooned. "If we hadn't run into trouble we would have won it last year, but he just keeps getting better." Though revenge was his, Cruz wasn't gloating. "I'm just glad to have gotten another chance to come here," he said. "I won't say we've taken revenge. I would say the jockey has run a fantastic race," and Cruz, turning to Prebble, slapped him on the back saying, "Well done! Good job!"
"I'm feeling pretty brilliant," said Prebble. "This is the best horse I've ever ridden and I'm honoured that Tony picked me to ride him."
The race was run at a medium pace, getting under way with Meisho Bowler taking the lead as expected, followed closely by Lohengrin and Daiwa Major until the straight. Prebble had kept Bullish Luck on the rail about midfield of the 18-strong lineup in the race's 56th running, looking to angle out for his run. Joyful Winner stayed further back of Bullish Luck on the outside. Straightening into the stretch, Prebble moved out and lined up at the top with 400 metres left. "It went even better than planned," Prebble said. "It's the first time I've been that close on a run. I was just 6 lengths off on straightening and actually got there too soon. His turn of foot is explosive. If I'd waited, he probably would have gone even faster."
Bullish Luck shot over the last 3 furlongs in 11.5 - 11.4 - 11.6 covering the 1,600 metres of fast turf in one minute 32.6 seconds.
Joyful Winner also did Hong Kong proud as the SAR's second runner in the top three. "He came to win it," trainer John Moore said of Joyful Winner's stretch bid, but "the other one was too good on the day."
Darren Beadman agreed, his mount was unable to catch the winner once he kicked. "He switched off straight away" from the jump as planned, then "nearly fell on the first corner," Beadman said, explaining his run to Moore.
Tony Cruz said he would love to bring Bullish Luck to Japan again. "He's a very healthy horse. I think the chances are high we could come again next year." Cruz said that Bullish Luck continues to improve with each race and with his second trip to Japan. "He's a much better traveller, has a better character. Everything was better than last year. My confidence in this horse is growing even more."
Cruz said he definitely rated the win of the Yasuda as "the highlight of his career," laughingly adding, "because of the US$1 million bonus as well!" On a more serious note, he looked back on his career as champion jockey and said. "I won G1s as a jockey and I'm expected to win them as a trainer too." Winning overseas though is what Cruz saw as the ultimate achievement. "This is, I think, what racing is all about. It's not just about winning in your own town. It's about winning elsewhere and I'd like to win elsewhere too."