Voyage Warrior led all the way to produce a real surprise in the Group Two Sprint Cup at Sha Tin.
All the pre-race attention had surrounded the return of Aethero and his rematch with Hot King Prawn – but nearly everything that could go wrong did for the favourite, who was slowly away and then keen in making up ground quickly.
Having his first start since December, Aethero had anything but a smooth passage throughout and ultimately it was no surprise when he dropped away and was eased by Zac Purton when his chance had gone.
Up front the Ricky Yiu-trained 23-1 chance Voyage Warrior stuck gamely to his task under Vincent Ho, having enough in reserve to hold off Hot King Prawn and Thanks Forever.
Ho said: “It wasn’t the plan to lead but my horse pinged the gate and everyone else was holding, they didn’t want to lead, so I just gave him a soft lead and he ran home strongly.
“He enjoyed that ground a lot and he was so relaxed in front. Ricky’s horses are doing very well, the young ones too.”
The Champion’s Sprint Prize at the big FWD Champions Day meeting back at Sha Tin on April 26 is now on the agenda, where he will again meet Aethero and Hot King Prawn.
Yiu said: “He’s maturing and that has meant he’s had some ups and downs, he’s had bad patches, but he’s improving and each time he’s gone over 1200 metres he’s run better.
“He’ll be against the same horses in the Group One next time. He’s going to go up a lot in the ratings but it doesn’t matter now, he’s in the Group races.”
Of the John Size-trained Hot King Prawn, jockey Joao Moreira said: “He’s honest, he tries his best and he is a good horse. I think the winner had everything go his way – my horse just ended up being in a spot that meant he didn’t have a perfect race, particularly in the straight, when I was trying to come on his outside I had to switch back in.
“I wouldn’t say it cost me the race, but I would say it cost me ground. I’m happy with his effort and we know what is there for him in the future.”
Trainer John Moore, meanwhile, was resigned to Aethero’s fate soon after leaving the stalls.
He said: “He missed the start and once he missed the start he got chopped out and that was the end of it. That’s the way we know things will go if he gets back in the field, he won’t relax. I just hope he doesn’t do it in the Group One.”