Carrying the hopes of racing fans in Hong Kong as well as many expatriates who came to Santa Anita to see him, Rich Tapestry gloriously triumphed over two Breeders’ Cup winners in the G1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (1200m) at Santa Anita on Saturday, 4 October. Only the second horse from Hong Kong ever to compete in the U.S., Rich Tapestry became the first to win.
The Sprint Championship is a “Win and You’re In” race, which means that Rich Tapestry not only earned the purse of US$180,000, he has a guaranteed spot in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (1200m) on 1 November, also at Santa Anita.
“This feels great, I have made history and I am very proud of myself,” said trainer Michael Chang, for whom this was a 200th career win. “I am not a big trainer so this is very good for me. I must thank the owners for their support and trust in allowing me to bring the horse here, and also my stable staff for their hard work and the Hong Kong Jockey Club for supporting us to come here.”
Rich Tapestry overcame many obstacles to win the race. First he had to make the long trip from Hong Kong, and then the Sprint Championship came up as one of the toughest preps for any Breeders’ Cup event. It drew two former Breeders’ Cup winners—Secret Circle, the defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, and Goldencents, who captured last year’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
But Chang and jockey Olivier Doleuze had a strategy that could play to Rich Tapestry’s strengths. Their planning worked to perfection.
“He’s very fast and he broke okay,” said Doleuze. “I could have been on the lead if I wanted, but Michael wanted me to give him a chance. I was happy to relax him behind a few horses.”
Longshot Indexical broke quickest of all, and another longshot, Ankeny Hill, went right with him. Rich Tapestry, from gate two, raced just a few steps behind those two.
“Before the race, the commentator was teasing me, saying I gave the horse a funny preparation,” said Chang. “On Thursday, after his final gallop, I took him straight to the gate to jump out, but I knew I had to make sure my horse would jump quickly. He missed two days because of quarantine so I had to rush him through five days of work. If we wanted to win, I knew I had to give him extra work and have him sharp.”
Doleuze had Rich Tapestry in an ideal spot. Indexical and Ankeny Hill vied for the lead, and then Secret Circle on the rail ranged up in contention. Doleuze was able to take Rich Tapestry back about a half-length and watch how the race shaped up.
Goldencents came away last, and as they approached the turn, he ranged up alongside Rich Tapestry and then passed him. That left the Hong Kong challenger in last place, but for Rich Tapestry the race was just beginning. He began his run and angled to the outside on the turn.
“When I came outside, it was perfect because I had a target in front of me,” said Doleuze. “He likes to chase horses.”
Goldencents swooped past the leaders, going four wide. As the field raced into the stretch, Rich Tapestry could see that his target was Goldencents. He zeroed in on his goal with military precision.
Doleuze asked Rich Tapestry to move up inside of Goldencents, and Rich Tapestry responded beautifully. He and Goldencents battled side by side right to the wire. Neither gave up, but it was Rich Tapestry’s courage that carried him to a narrow nose victory over the valiant Breeders’ Cup hero.
Rich Tapestry proved he could race with the swiftest Santa Anita sprinters, and he accomplished the victory in 1m 07.59s for the 1200m. The Santa Anita track record is 1m 06.98s and the race record is 1m 07.53s.
“My tactics were that in American racing style they go very fast in the first quarter, in the second quarter they slow down a little bit, and in the home straight they slow down more, so I just asked my jockey to try to make him finish,” said Chang. “He’s come out of the race really well. I scoped him afterwards and everything is fine.”
Rich Tapestry had not had an official race since April. Chang said he had difficulty finding a race for him because the six-year-old gelding races better on dirt than turf. Rich Tapestry did have two good barrier trials at Sha Tin, which he won, the first on 8 September and the second on 20 September. Once Rich Tapestry arrived at Santa Anita, Chang sent him out for easy gallops the first couple of days and then worked him a half-mile in 48.00 s.
Three of Rich Tapestry’s owners — Silas Yang Siu Shun, Wong Tak Wai, and Ho Chi Keung — travelled from Hong Kong for the race. The fourth owner, Cheung Yuk Tak, was unable to make the trip.
“This is fantastic,” said Yang. “We thought the race would be very competitive, but it ended up even more competitive than we thought. We were lucky to win it because we don’t believe that the horse, coming a long way here, has peaked to form yet. But the trainer was convinced he would have a good performance. I want to thank the Hong Kong Jockey Club for supporting us to come here.”
The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said: “It was a great training performance from Michael and a great ride from Doleuze! I would also like to express my sincere gratitude to the trainer and owner for their understanding about the importance of not using Lasix when Rich Tapestry runs in the States, also for their great support of the Club's philosophy on medication free racing.”
William A Nader, HKJC’s Executive Director of Racing, said: “I believe he could be the first horse based outside the US to have won a 1200m Grade 1 race on dirt there in over 20 years, so this is a tremendous achievement. This is a Hong Kong horse, bred in Ireland, with a French jockey and a local trainer and owners, winning on American soil - how great is that?
“I called Michael Chang to congratulate him and let him know how proud we are of what he and his team have achieved. It is not an easy task to travel a horse from Hong Kong to America and be the only runner in the race running without the benefit of race day medication (Lasix). They made a big statement today and they deserve a lot of credit for their ability and their convictions. Rich Tapestry will now be a huge story leading up to the Breeders' Cup, representing Hong Kong on his history-making journey."
Photo 1, 2:
Rich Tapestry (yellow cap), ridden by jockey Olivier Doleuze, edges Goldencents (white cap) to win the G1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (dirt 1200m) at Santa Anita.
Olivier Doleuze and Michael Chang celebrate their huge success after the race.
Winning connections of Rich Tapestry pose for photos at the presentation ceremony.