The Bauhinia flag again flew high in the $1 million Gr.1 KrisFlyer International sprint (1200m) on Sunday when Hong Kong’s NZ-bred sprinting star Aerovelocity (Pins) accounted for a stellar international field.
By winning the KrisFlyer, the Paul O’Sullivan-trained six-year-old gelding was in the process adding a second Leg of the Global Sprint Challenge Series under his belt. His last-start win came in the Gr.1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) in Japan on March 29.
Hyped up as the undisputed pre-race favourite all week, the son of Pins did not disappoint his connections and legions of fans, including his loyal group of pink-and-green pennant-waving travelling groupies who had hogged the front rows at Kranji minutes before the race.
Just like his fans homing in on the best spots, Aerovelocity immediately vied for the lead upon despatch, which came as a bit of a surprise. But jockey Zac Purton knew what he had underneath, and kept pressing forward to eventually settle into the lead from Emperor Max (Holy Roman Emperor) with Kiwi Karma (NZ) (Fast ‘N’ Famous) in close attendance while Zac Spirit (Flying Spur) was tucked in on the rails in fourth.
Purton threw out the anchors from the 800m, but he soon had Kiwi Karma ranging upsides while the winner of the last two editions Lucky Nine (Dubawi), who had settled at the tail from the start, ahead of just El Padrino (NZ) (Mr Nancho), was closing in after taking the shortcuts home in the hope of a providential gap upon straightening.
It did come, but the changing of the guard played out inside the last 300m as Aerovelocity started to stretch out under Purton’s first couple of niggles. Emperor Max replicated his brave run of last year when second to Lucky Nine, by finishing in the same spot, about one length closer – 1 ½ lengths astern, but he turned the tables on Lucky Nine who, was a little boxed in at the point of turn, to still run on valiantly for third another three parts of a length away.
The winning time was 1min 9.05secs for the 1200m on the Short Course.
The cheers in the Aerovelocity camp erupted soon after their pin-up horse crossed the line first and grew in crescendo for a long way as he cantered on towards the back straight before pulling up, but the one person who must still be pinching himself was O’Sullivan.
The New Zealander moved to Hong Kong in 2004 with a robust pedigree of 11 champion trainer titles back home and several champions he had put the bridle on, but his star had dimmed a little in his first 10 seasons in the racing mecca, until he experienced a sharp upswing in fortunes the last two seasons, which happily coincided with the arrival of Aerovelocity.
The Gr.1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) last December began the amazing fairy tale, then Japan, in March and now Singapore. The affable Kiwi is, however, not the sort who is all out to start a world domination on the sprinting stage, happy to just savour the moment first.
“It is more a relief than a thrill to win as we are a long way from home,” said O’Sullivan.
“It was not really the plan to lead, but he has got very good gate speed. We did not know what to expect from the local horses here. Obviously they were happy to just let him bowl along.
“We will sit down with Daniel (Yeung) who owns him. He is up for the bonus now so I think we will prioritise that, but we will let the dust settle and talk to Daniel.”
A bonus is up for grabs for any three-Leg winner of the Global Sprint Challenge Series, with the next Legs being in England, the King’s Stand followed by the Golden Jubilee Stakes and the July Cup, but O’Sullivan is unlikely to take that option.
Click on the photo to watch AEROVELOCITY win the Gr.1 KrisFlyer Sprint