As two-time Hong Kong Vase (G1) winner Glory Vase was making hard work of trying to win a third, it was the other Japanese shipper, Win Marilyn, who swooped late to score a new career high Sunday at Sha Tin. Trained by Takahisa Tezuka, the daughter of Screen Hero benefited from a heady ride by Damian Lane.
The first of the Hong Kong International Races got off to a dramatic start. Germany’s Mendocino reared when the latch was sprung and refused to race. Win Marilyn, in contrast, broke alertly and found herself in front along with Ballydoyle favorite Stone Age. She was at the risk of over-racing with daylight in front of her, so Lane carefully eased back and got her to switch off. His lulling worked so well that she dropped back near the tail of the field. Stone Age ended up being reserved just off the pace, but lacking Win Marilyn’s acceleration, he didn’t respond as much when the real running started.
Hong Kong’s Senor Toba opted to take up the pacesetting job and got away with steady splits. Godolphin’s Botanik appeared to be enjoying the run of the race tracking him, and the Andre Fabre charge pounced in the stretch. His advantage was short-lived.
Win Marilyn was winding up on the outside, more purposefully than the grinding Glory Vase. Outkicking them all, she drove to a 1 1/2-length decision over Botanik. Win Marilyn negotiated about 1 1/2 miles in 2:27.53 to earn her first Group 1 laurel. Her previous attempt at this distance, a runner-up effort in the 2020 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1) suggested that she was up to this, as did her dead-heat second in Hanshin’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) on Nov. 13.
“You can ride her wherever you want, and I was happy to take a sit because I knew with her turn of foot, she could finish over them,” said Lane, who was winning an HKIR event for the first time. “There was a little sense of relief I suppose, I’ve had a few goes here with no success.
“I think the 2400 meters really suits her, and the horse who beat her the other day (Geraldina) was something special, so I was confident that Win Marilyn could hold her form today. It’s a privilege to be a part of Japanese racing and getting on these horses.”
Runner-up Botanik performed admirably in his first start outside of France, crossing the wire a neck up on Glory Vase.
“He’s run a blinder; he’s a lovely horse,” said William Buick, who was subbing for the COVID-positive Mickael Barzalona. “To be honest, if you ignore his run on Arc Day (when a subpar 10th in the Prix Dollar [G2]), he looked like he had a real chance.
“Mr. Fabre doesn’t send many horses here, and when he does send them, you know they have a chance.
“He’s going to be a real nice stayer for next year. He’s got a great attitude, and he stayed well the whole way.”
Glory Vase soldiered on for Joao Moreira, who was bidding adieu to Hong Kong ahead of a global tour.
“He went all right; he did his best,” the prolific jockey said. “His condition was as good as it could be, but with his age and younger horses coming up. I’m proud of what he has done.”
Panfield stayed on to take fourth from the one-paced Stone Age, trailed by Bubble Gift (who bled), Senor Toba, Broome (who briefly improved position before fading), and Butterfield. Mendocino’s behavior left jockey Rene Piechulek stunned.
“I just don’t know what happened,” Piechulek said. “He’s never done it before. He was quiet and relaxed beforehand. Once the gate opened, twice I tried to get him going, but he just wouldn’t.”
But Win Marilyn got going to advance her record to 17-6-2-1, reflecting victories in the 2020 Sho Flora (G2) as well as last year’s Nikkei Sho (G2) at about 1 9/16 miles and the Sankei Sho All Comers (G2) (over Glory Vase). The five-year-old was rounding into form in the second half of this season, placing third versus males in the Aug. 21 Sapporo Kinen (G2) en route to her commendable effort behind Geraldina at Hanshin.
Bred by Cosmo View Farm in Japan, Win Marilyn is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Win Malerei. Their dam, Cosmo Cielo, is an Australian-bred daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus.