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Lucky Nine

Lucky Nine: made up for a string of narrow misses at Sha Tin on Sunday

  PICTURE: Hong Kong Jockey Club  

Lucky Nine posts commanding win

Report: Hong Kong, Sunday
The Chairman's Sprint Prize (Group 1)
6f, turf, 3yo+

HONG KONG'S best sprinter-miler Lucky Nine (Caspar Fownes/Brett Prebble) erased almost a year of near-misses and hard luck stories at the elite level with a pretty commanding success from up-and-coming British import Frederick Engels in the Chairman's Sprint Prize over 6f, the second leg of the local Speed Series, on Sunday at Sha Tin.

Winner of the Hong Kong Sprint in 2011, this was the formerly Irish-trained Lucky Nine's fourth Group 1 success locally, a tally that trainer Caspar Fownes feels could be greater had he enjoyed a little more luck with post positions in recent big races.

On this occasion, however, the six-year-old Lucky Nine benefited from a kinder, lower gate allocation which enabled him to settle that bit closer in transit and then kick clear of the chasing Frederick Engels and hold him at bay by three quarters of a length. The consistent Captain Sweet finished a similar margin behind in third.

It is possible that the first two past the post could next clash in the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan on March 30, a race in which last year Lucky Nine ran third to Krypton Factor from a wide gate.

But trainer Fownes could also point the winner towards the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup, the third leg of the Speed Series over possibly his optimum distance of 7f at Sha Tin on March 17.

"I'll see he comes out of this and the horse will tell me. I'll have to talk to his owner also. He will go for one or the other - not both," Fownes said.

Winning jockey Brett Prebble has been on the superbly tough and consistent son of Dubawi for each of his major triumphs and was in a unique position to judge the merits of his chief rival Frederick Engels having twice won on the 2011 Royal Ascot winner earlier in the season.

"I took a pull on Lucky Nine early and let him enjoy his race," the top Australian rider remarked.

"We didn't go that fast so when I picked up my bridle and they started to sprint home I really put my foot down because I knew his stamina would kick in, more so than Frederick Engels who's got a very sharp turn of foot. I didn't want him getting upsides me and having an explosive last furlong, so the move worked in my favour."

Last year's winner of the race, the nine-year-old Joy And Fun, never appeared happy as he hung out under pressure and his intended trip to Dubai for the Al Quoz Sprint he won in 2010 now seems a lot less certain.

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