Pure Champion, formerly known as Steinbeck, wins Happy Valley Group 3PICTURE: Hong Kong Jockey Club
Win for horse formerly known as Steinbeck
Report: Hong Kong, Wednesday
Happy Valley: The January Cup (Group 3) 1m1f, turf
IRISH IMPORT Pure Champion (Tony Cruz/Gerald Mosse) seized the first Group race to take place at Happy Valley for nearly a decade courtesy of a courageous defeat of the lightly-weighted Packing OK on Wednesday night.
Previously named Steinbeck when he raced for Aidan O'Brien, Pure Champion finished fourth to Canford Cliffs in the 2010 Irish 2,000 Guineas and won the Group 3 Solonaway Stakes at the Curragh in the same season. It was a first success for the five-year-old since making his Hong Kong debut last February.
Mosse, who scored a fine treble on the night, opted to plot a wide course on the son of Footstepsinthesand before gradually getting the better of Packing OK, who enjoyed a much easier run on the fence, to score a half-length victory.
The pair drew nearly four lengths clear of Happy Valley stalwart Noble Conqueror, twice a winner of this contest in the past.
It has taken Pure Champion time to acclimatise to his new surroundings and, after disappointing on his first start at Sha Tin, he missed the Hong Kong Derby in March and did not race again until July.
Since then, his progress has been conspicuous and he ran a good second in the Group 2 Hong Kong Cup Trial at level weights in November. He then made the running under Mosse in last month's Group 1 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup, finishing just three lengths behind stablemate California Memory.
After benefiting for a drop in grade, winning trainer Cruz said: "I expected him to win today. He has always had some issues since he came to Hong Kong. He had quarter cracks and a mucus problem, but he is growing out of all those now. He is much better and a lot stronger - he's a better racehorse."
Mosse added: "I know he's a nice horse and I know I can always rely on him for a good turn of foot. I gave him his chance to kick on and he did it very well."
Also at Happy Valley on Wednesday
Mosse also visited the winners' enclosure on outsider Best Noodle (Peter Ho) in the class 5 race and Great Renown, trained by former Chantilly-based Richard Gibson.
Gibson's bracing introduction to life in Hong Kong continues apace and this was his 11th win of the season.
Two results stood out on the rest of the supporting card. Middle tier stayer Goodview Successor (Dennis Yip/Zac Purton) fairly thrashed all comers in the class 3 heat over 11f but the most improable outcome was saved for last.
Pizzazz, ridden by Derek Leung for the in-form Paul O'Sullivan, was not unfancied at 8-1 in the class2 sprint, but the manner ofhis last stride success was quite spectacular.
Hard ridden, detached in rear and some nine or so lengths from the pace on the turn for home with just under two furlongs to race, the wings of Pegasus himself must have been bestowed on Pizzazz as he soared down the centre of the track to deny Mosse a four-timer on Crown Witness in the last stride by a short-head.