The final group 1 event of the Hong Kong season proved to be a changing of the guard as 4-year-old Panfield emerged with his first local victory at the top level while Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year Exultant was beaten into third.
Both had perfect chances in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (G1) May 23 at Sha Tin Racecourse. Exultant, whose prowess at 2,400-meter (about 1 1/2-mile) events dates back to the 2018-19 season, shadowed his stablemate, Time Warp , through a slow trip down the backstretch.
Karis Teetan kept Panfield a bit back of those two, biding his time into the stretch run. As Time Warp’s job was done, Exultant and jockey Zac Purton took the lead and battled on gamely. But Panfield brushed the 7-year-old aside in the final 100 meters and won by a half-length as Columbus County, under leading rider Joao Moreira, also ran by Exultant to finish second.
Trainer Tony Millard was quick to claim a changing of the guard among the Hong Kong stayers with his warrior now on top.
“Quite clearly, a lot of the older horses are finished now so that puts him at the top spot as the best staying horse in Hong Kong,” Millard said.
The trainer said he knew his horse was ready to roll after a recent stiff 1,800-meter (about 1 1/8-mile) workout.
“If any of you saw it, it was unbelievable,” Millard said of the effort. “He broke 60 seconds for 1,000 (meters) and he came home (the last 400 meters) in :21.8 and Karis was hanging onto him.
“I said to Karis after that, ‘I don’t care how good they are. He’s ready,'” Millard said.
Teetan, who is mourning the death in a race fall in Mauritius May 15 of close friend and fellow rider Nooresh Juglall, said the win “makes it a little better.” But he said he was less confident than Millard in the closing stages of the Champions & Chater.
“At the 700 (meter mark) I knew this horse would go right through the line because he literally dropped down a gear and started to motor home,” Teetan said. “(But) you know when Joao comes next to you in a race, you know you’ve got a hard battle. In those big ones, he’s come next to me a few times and he’s got the better of me and I was like ‘C’mon Joao, not today,’ and it pays off.”
Panfield finished in a final time of 2:25.25 on good to firm turf.
It was a disappointing finish for trainer Tony Cruz, who trains Exultant as well as Packing Waltham and Time Warp, who finished next-last and last in the field of eight.
Panfield, a Lookin At Lucky colt, won for the second time in seven starts in Hong Kong. He showed promise as a stayer when fifth, beaten just 2 1/4 lengths, in his previous start, the 2,400-meter Queen Mother Memorial Cup (G3) May 2 at Sha Tin.
Racing as Look Pen in his native Chile, he won four of five starts with three of the wins in group 1 events.