Fortune favours Hawksley

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The Independent Online
The Chinese tend to believe in fate, so it is to be hoped that most of the visiting dignitaries at Hong Kong Day here yesterday managed to back Hawksley Hill, the winner of the most valuable eight-furlong race ever staged at Sandown, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy Handicap. He was, after all, ridden by a man called Fortune.

Indeed, good fortune seems to follow Hawksley Hill around like a well- trained dog, which may be worth bearing in mind if he contests the Schweppes Golden Mile at Glorious Goodwood a fortnight today, a race for which he is now the 7-1 joint-favourite with William Hill. He won the Spring Cup at Newbury two months ago when the stewards disqualified the first horse home, while he was originally bought as a foal by Paul Morrison, his owner, with the intention of selling him on as a yearling. A minor ailment kept Hawksley Hill from the sales ring, however, and Morrison decided to keep him, a choice which was rewarded still further yesterday by the first prize of just over pounds 50,000.

It was an excellent afternoon's work too for Lynda Ramsden, whose prize for training the winner was two business-class tickets to Hong Kong and a five-night stay which will include the International Race Day meeting at Sha Tin in December. This too might have been a tip for believers in co-incidence, since Ramsden won a similar excursion, to the Breeders' Cup meeting last November, for saddling a winner at Doncaster last season.

Perhaps she should donate this latest trip to the unfortunate stable staff who deal with Hawksley Hill. "He usually eats everything, including people," Ramsden said. "In fact, the worse the humour he's in, the better he is, and when one of the lads comes out with a few choice words about him, you know he's a happy horse." Remember, then, to study him carefully in the paddock before future outings. If the horse looks cheerful and his handler looks miserable, it is time to find a bookmaker.

That next appearance could come as soon as this Monday, since Hawksley Hill is among the entries for a Group Three race at Ayr. "He takes his racing very well," his trainer said, "but it will depend on how he is after today, how much he weighs and how much he eats." And, presumably, who.

The favourite for yesterday's race was Dancing Image, who is owned by The Queen and would have been a somewhat ironic winner given that the sponsors recently lost the word "Royal" from their title. His position in the market, though, had more to do with the fact that he was ridden by Lanfranco Dettori, who had already taken the first two races on the card in typically determined fashion.

Lord Of Men, winner of the HSBC Trophy, forced Dettori to work particularly hard, despite the fact that he set off a hot favourite at 1-2. Lord Of Men appeared to lose his action a couple of furlongs from home as Silence Reigns, a 14-1 chance, emerged from the pack to challenge him, and his jockey had an interesting explanation why. "There was a herd of ducks, big fat ones, at the side of the course," Dettori said. "He looked at them and lost his rhythm, but I gave him a slap, he picked up again and then off he went." Close study of the replay revealed that the ducks were so big and fat that they were, in fact, geese.

Lord Of Men was expected to make a mark in the Classics last year after an excellent two-year-old campaign which included a Group One success in France. The International Stakes at York's Ebor meeting is now a possible target, though it was disturbing to see that, geese or no geese, the colt swished his tail with every stroke of Dettori's whip. Resolution may not figure highly among his attributes.

A definite absentee at York will be Richard Quinn, who yesterday discovered he had broken his wrist in a fall at Brighton on Tuesday. The injury will take six to eight weeks to heal, forcing him to miss the King George, Glorious Goodwood, the Ebor meeting and, perhaps, the St Leger meeting too.

Police in Hong Kong have arrested a businessman, Ng Siu-chau, and detained three other suspects on charges of offering HK$1m (pounds 80,000) in bribes to three apprentices to pull their horses in a race. Ng has been remanded in custody until Friday.

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