Dunaden stormed to a historic Group 1 double in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase, adding this year’s CXHKIR curtain-raiser to last month’s G1 Melbourne Cup. The five-year-old, trained in France by Mikel Delzangles, is the first horse to add success in the Vase to victory in Australia’s premier race.
That win at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November came over 3200m but Dunaden relished the drop back to 2400m at Sha Tin.
Settled in midfield under Australian rider Craig Williams, the French raider lay 7th of the 13 runners as Jakkalberry led the field off the home turn under Fabio Branca. But as the British hope folded at the furlong pole, Dunaden’s powerful stretch run approached top gear and with Williams in full flow, the entire swept past rivals to land the spoils by three quarters of a length.
Thumbs Up, trained locally by Caspar Fownes filled the runner-up berth, while the Ed Dunlop-trained Red Cadeaux, a narrow second in the Melbourne Cup, shared third place with Silver Pond from the Freddy Head stable.
A delighted Delzangles commented: “He is an amazing horse because it is difficult for them to travel that much and yet peak at the right moment, twice. To be honest I was not quite sure about his chances here because he was on his own for a while, he worked alone and I had nothing to compare his progress to.
“I still can’t believe it – if anyone had told me in April when I started training him that I would be here in December, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s definitely very important to me professionally.
“Going into the straight, although he had a perfect trip, I could not tell whether he would win, and then he made his move and won easily.
“He will go back home now and should have a well-deserved rest. I think he will start next season pretty late in the spring. We haven’t got a long-term plan for him.”
Williams, who expressed his joy by kissing the camera following his post-race interview, said: “He’s pleased me all week and I thought I had the right horse for the race. We wanted to get him close to the pace and running comfortably. It was courageous and it was a very, very thrilling win for me in a big international Group 1, and especially on a horse like Dunaden.”
Winning owner, Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani, stated: “I want to thank Craig for giving him a wonderful ride and Mikel for training him so well.”