Maurice signs off with stunning Hong Kong Cup win

Maurice will retire as one of Japan's greats

PICTURE: Hong Kong Jockey Club Maurice signs off with stupendous Cup win By Keith Melrose 9:27AM 11 DEC 2016

Report: Sha Tin, Sunday

Longines Hong Kong Cup (Group 1), 1m2f, 3yo+, turf

RYAN MOORE was out of luck on Highland Reel, but he provided a champion's performance in the saddle as Maurice swept to a valedictory success in the Longines Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Moore has struck up a dominant partnership with the Noriyuki Hori-trained five-year-old, who took his record at Sha Tin to four from four with a magnificent three-length success.

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Moore said: "He's very good at a mile but he's better at ten. He gets better every time I ride him. He's a lot of fun to ride."

One of Maurice's most prominent rivals, last year's winner A Shin Hikari, got loose before the race and proved little more tractable in event. He set a strong pace under Yutaka Take, who seemed consigned to letting the Prix d'Ispahan winner expend as much energy as he was going to anyway.

The pair turned in with a lead of around six lengths, but it soon became clear that they would not stay there to the end. Moore had kept Maurice to the inside and as the gaps came he jinked through them, before storming clear once he reached A Shin Hikari's outside.

Secret Weapon, under man of the day Zac Purton, stayed on into third, ahead of Staphanos. Elliptique, the only European challenger, was seventh, and A Shin Hikari dropped away into tenth of 12.

The win will be Maurice's last, as was known before the race. As only the second horse from Japan to win three Group 1s abroad, he will retire with the reputation as one of his country's greatest-ever racehorses.

Also at Sha Tin on Sunday. . .

Longines Hong Kong Sprint (Group 1), 3y0+, 6f, turf

THERE was another dramatic late charge in the Sprint 40 minutes after the Vase, but this time Aerovelocity held off the surging Lucky Bubbles to win by a short-head.

The winner was regaining the race he had won as a six-year-old in 2014 and in so doing became the oldest winner of the race since its inception in 1999.

Lucky Bubbles could certainly be called unfortunate, however, as jockey Brett Prebble was forced off the rail leaving the back straight to challenge wide and yet just failed.

Winning rider Zac Purton said: "With 100m to go I was very confident. At 50m I could feel Lucky Bubbles coming and I was just praying for the post."

Longines Hong Kong Mile (Group 1), 3yo+, 1m, turf

ZAC PURTON gained his second Group 1 prize of the afternoon when Beauty Only swooped down the outside to secure the Hong Kong Mile.

With only favourite Able Friend drawn outside of him, Purton was forced to drop out Beauty Only and challenge widest on the home bend.

The pair got something of a jump on Able Friend, who ended up wider still as the field fanned out across the track, but while the favourite's effort petered out Beauty Flame shot to the front inside the final 200m and held on from Helene Paragon. Joyful Trinity got third in a three-way photo finish.

Purton said: "I was racing earlier than I wanted but I knew he has a big set of lungs on him and he's finished off strong."

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