Eagle Regiment (white cap) lands the first leg of 2012 Speed SeriesPICTURE: Hong Kong Jockey Club
Eagle Regiment strikes for Man at Sha Tin
Report: Hong Kong, Sunday
Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup (Group 1) 5f, turf, 3yo+
COURSE and distance specialist Eagle Regiment (Manfred Man/Olivier Doleuze) struck a blow for the newgeneration of Hong Kong sprinters and gave his trainer by far the most important victory of his training career in the Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Eagle Regiment had a neck to spare in the first leg of 2012 Speed Series from the admirable Joy And Fun.
It was the sixth time from just ten career starts for the Australian-bred son of El Moxie to emerge victorious down the Sha Tin 5f chute.
To make the feat appear even more impressive, or to emphasize just how lethal the still-improving four-year-old is when deployed on a straight sprint track, this was Eagle Regiment's first run outside of the handicap grades.
As such, he had upwards of 15lb to find on official ratings with five better-established rivals who had featured in the 2011 World Thoroughbred Rankings just days earlier.
Half a length separated the first five past the post amid the murky weather conditions. Let Me Fight and Rich Unicorn finished third and fourth.
Following them was former triple world champion Sacred Kingdom who fleetingly looked like he might win this race for a third consecutive time only to peak on his run inside the closing stages.
Lucky Nine, the international champion in December over 6f, found the minimum distance a touch short of requirements, but was still only just over a length behind the winner in sixth.
For former jockey Manfred Man, his first Group winner of any description as a trainer came at the highest level.
"To win a first Group 1 race is very exciting and I'm very happy," he said.
"The horse is a 1000m specialist, so I told the owner we would come here and try our best, but coming out of handicaps, we couldn't be confident."
The next leg of the Speed Series will be the Chairman's Sprint Prize on February 5 over 6f, a distance over which Eagle Regiment is far less proven having only tested it once when well beaten last November.
"I have no choice but to go to 1200m with him now," the trainer added.
"There is a question mark over the distance after his one try, but he lost a shoe that time so I need to enter him againto see how he goes."
For his part, French ace Doleuze commented: "Over 1000m he's a different horse, but now they will have to stretch him out. I think that will be no problem, but only the future will tell us."
The connections of Joy And Fun endured another near miss having also finished runner-up in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint last month.
Derek Cruz's terrific eight-year-old is being aimed for the Al Quoz Sprint on the Dubai World Cup programme. There he will be reunited with Brett Doyle who recently opted against being relicensed for the second half of the Hong Kong season and will depart at the end of the month.
Also on Sunday
Former British-trained handicapper Business As Usual (John Moore/Darren Beadman) achieved his third victory and highest mark yet in Hong Kong when landing the Class 2 Southwell Handicap over a mile. The five-year-old carried the same name two years ago when he won two of his four starts for the late Michael Jarvis.
One race prior, the progressive Best Eleven (Tony Cruz/Maxime Guyon) readily accounted for the 8/13 favourite Tuxedo in the Class 3 sprint.
Trainer Man and Doleuze opened the programme with a declaration of intent when they took out the Class 4 Exeter Handicap with smart newcomer Electronic Fortune.
Another useful debutant surfaced a little while later when G-One Leading (John Size/Douglas Whyte) won his Class 4 heat over 7f with the minimum of fuss.
Whyte, just back after a three-meeting suspension,also visited the winners' enclosure on Nicholson (David Hall).