Giant Treasure plunders Stewards’ Cup

Giant Treasure and Luger lunged in tandem at the end of a thrilling HK$10 million G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) at Sha Tin Racecourse today, Sunday 31 January, and it was the former’s number that came up, a short-head the victory margin.

“My goodness, it was tight!” said a relieved Richard Gibson, the winning trainer. “He ran well here a month ago and we knew if he repeated that form he’d be tough to beat today.”

The grey split a pair of champions when second in last month’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, Japan’s Maurice ahead and Hong Kong’s Able Friend just behind. Group 1 form rarely lies and Giant Treasure proved it this afternoon with his first top-flight success.

Beauty Flame led the 11-runner field until deep into the home stretch. With 150m to race, Contentment, Luger and Giant Treasure surged around the fading front-runner. In a frantic tussle to the wire it was the rail-hugging Giant Treasure, under Christophe Soumillon, that held off the wide-finishing Luger, Zac Purton’s mount. Contentment was a further neck back in third as the winner stopped the clock at 1m 34.16s.

“He’s not an easy ride, he’s still quite green,” said Soumillon, for whom this was a third win in the race (2005 Bullish Luck, 2009 Good Ba Ba). “I rode him for the first time in November and he was upsetting us a bit because you could feel he’s got a lot of ability but he was not trying that hard. So we tried to find a way to gallop as best as possible.

“You can’t ride him like a usual horse and try to come around the outside to win it. He loves to come through horses. Even today when I hit the front 150 metres from the line he just looked around and I couldn’t make him concentrate until the line, so we were quite lucky to get it today.”

A consistent place-getter in Pattern company up until now, including third in last season’s HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile and HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), Gibson credited the application of blinkers and the partnership with Soumillon for the five-year-old’s recent ascent to the very top.

“The blinkers have helped the horse,” said the Englishman. “Christophe has certainly improved the horse. We always knew he had bags of talent last year and now he’s doing it at Group 1 level so that’s very satisfying.

“We’ve achieved a big goal and huge credit to Christophe to get his head over the line because it was very tight. Christophe was saying after the race that he thinks this horse could stretch in distance, but we’ll have a think.”

That opens up the possibility of the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin next month and Meydan at the end of March. Should Dubai be considered, Soumillon feels the Dubai Turf (1800m) rather than the G1 Dubai World Cup (2000m, dirt) might be the optimum target.

“I don’t think he will love the dirt but I’m sure he will be able to run the Dubai Turf, but if you want to make sure he can handle it, why not try the Gold Cup here? If he jumps well with a good draw we can relax like today and I’m sure he can last the 2000 metres.”

The John Size-trained Luger, last year’s HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner, was having his first race since a below-par sixth in the G1 Champions Mile here in May, after which he was found to have had an irregular heart rhythm.

The G1 Stewards’ Cup is the first leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown Series, which continues with the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) on 28 February and concludes with the G1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) in May.


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