Regiment spreadeagles field in Centenary Sprint Cup
Eagle Regiment defied an almost one-year absence to become the latest in an
elite roll call of back-to-back winners of Hong Kong's Group 1 Centenary Sprint
Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.
|Jockey Olivier Doleuze celebrates Eagle Regiment's dynamic return from a nearly year-long layoff
(Hong Kong Jockey Club)
The Sha Tin straight-course specialist is the fifth horse in 15 years to
achieve the feat, joining such luminaries as Silent Witness and Sacred Kingdom.
The five-year-old broke awkwardly from post 13 but was soon traveling powerfully
in the slipstream of the pacesetting Amber Sky, and when jockey Olivier Doleuze
shook the reins at the halfway point, Eagle Regiment grasped the advantage and
powered away for a 1 1/2-length verdict.
"I'm very happy," said trainer Manfred Man, for whom this was a 300th career
win. "I was confident, given his form in the mornings, that he would have a good
chance, but almost one year off was another problem."
Man was left downhearted last March when the El Moxie gelding was scratched
from the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai after succumbing to lameness, but the
handler was rewarded for his patient approach to clinch the second top-flight
success of his career, and has Dubai on his mind once more.
"He hurt his hind leg in Dubai, so we missed that race and when we got back
to Hong Kong I asked the owner to give me enough time to rest the horse, so we
just prepared for this race, and in the last few months we only trialed him," he
said, adding, "we'll try to get him ready for Dubai again."
Doleuze was elated as he "whooped" past the winning post, whip aloft in
salute to the horse's blistering return in :56 1/5 for about five furlongs on
the good turf.
"I'm very happy and all credit to the staff, Manfred and his assistant
Raymond do a very good job with this horse," said the Frenchman, who had
partnered Eagle Regiment to victory 12 months earlier.
|Eagle Regiment showed warp speed over his favorite course and distance
(Hong Kong Jockey Club)
"It's never easy to come back after such a long time. He had a very good
preparation, but even when we trial him it's hard to know how much there is.
Today he showed me what I was expecting. He's a very different horse when you
run him over 1,000 meters straight, and today was the best.
"Each trial I've been increasing his progression and the last trial I pushed
him a little bit to put a little bit inside, but you always doubt when a horse
has been off for so long," Doleuze continued, "but sprinters come to hand very
fast, and when I trialed him last time he showed me he was there."
The jockey's biggest concern going into the race was how the now seven-time
course and distance winner would break from the gate.
"The major part with this horse is not the race, it's to make him jump out of
the gate," he stated. "He has a habit to jump a little bit awkward from the gate
and that's the hardest part. After that it's so easy because a quality horse
like that travels then is able to kick at the right time and maintain his
"I'm more than happy -- he's the best horse I ride. I've ridden some very
good horses in France, but he's one of the top."
Frederick Engels, a rising star in the sprint ranks this term, closed out
from the tail to finish a solid runner-up under Weichong Marwing for trainer
John Moore. Longshot Best Eleven was a further neck back in third, while Captain
Sweet got up to edge the top-rated Lucky Nine for fourth.
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