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Comeback king Aerovelocity eyes Japan return after Centenary Sprint Cup success
02 Feb 2016 | By Michael Cox, SCMP

Overseas Group One targets are back on the agenda for Aerovelocity, but working out when and where will just have to wait, with trainer Paul O’Sullivan waiting for the dust to settle after his horse’s comeback win in an eventful Group One Centenary Sprint Cup.

“That is such a satisfying win and honestly, I hadn’t thought about anything beyond today,” a beaming O’Sullivan said after producing the seven-year-old first-up after a heart irregularity failure in November’s Group Two Jockey Club Sprint. “I was holding my breath between the 500m and 400m mark of the race, because if a heart irregularity was going to happen again, that’s where it would have happened.”

O’Sullivan needn’t have worried, though - after being given a lovely run in transit by Zac Purton, the Australian jockey was swinging off Aerovelocity with 300m to go, although interference from the winner saw an objection thrown in from third-placed favourite Peniaphobia after he was crowded for room.

“To be honest, people don’t give this horse enough credit - people keep finding a horse to beat him,” Purton said after Aerovelocity was sent out $8.50 third favourite. “After drawing barrier four I went out there thinking they couldn’t beat me. I just rode him how I would normally ride him, I was full of confidence, he travelled into the race so strongly. He has just got better with age.”

Last season, Aerovelocity became the first Hong Kong-trained horse to win a Group One race in three different countries, with his Hong Kong Sprint victories followed by features in Japan and Singapore.

Those last two triumphs put a US$1 million (HK$7.78 million) Global Sprint Challenge bonus on the table if Aerovelocity could win again on international day, but O’Sullivan said owner Daniel Yeung Ngai’s decision to rest his star instead paid off yesterday.

“It was a very difficult decision, but they were brave enough to do it and they got what they deserved today,” O’Sullivan said.

Options for Aerovelocity now include a return trip to Chukyo for the 212 million yen (HK$13.64 million) Takamatsunomiya Kinen on March 27 or the US$2 million (HK$15.56 million) Golden Shaheen on the previous evening at Meydan, before returning for the HK$14 million Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize on May 1.

Anyone looking for a sign that Aerovelocity was his old self might have been buoyed by the gelding’s typically aggressive pre-race behaviour, although O’Sullivan’s assistant Pierre Ng Pang-chi certainly wasn’t as enamoured after he was nearly shoved through a guard rail en route to the track.

Out on the track, Aerovelocity was also looking for the rail in the straight, as he hung in alarmingly, causing interference to favourite Peniaphobia and leaving his trainer Tony Cruz seething.

Stewards didn’t take long to deliberate and overruled the subsequent objection, although they did suspend Purton for three days.