Racing: Docksider win starts tug-of-war with Hills

HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL A Berkshire-trained horse stands out in the Mile as Europe makes a clean sweep of Sha Tin's top three contests
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The Independent Online
IT WAS a terrible way to treat your hosts. Europe did everything bar steal the chopsticks here at Sha Tin racetrack yesterday collecting the three Group races on the former colony's most prestigious card of the year.

It was an afternoon on which the police band must have got tired of pumping out the Marseillaise. The French anthem rang out around the Ma On Shen (Horse Saddle Mountains) which fringe this course when Jim And Tonic won the main race of the day, the Hong Kong Cup, and also when Borgia took the Vase. In addition, Olivier Peslier was the card's outstanding jockey.

It was Peslier who collaborated with John Hills's Docksider to provide Britain's brightest moment, in the Mile the chestnut four-year-old was a worryingly-lathered figure when he emerged from the stalls and bolted to the front after just a furlong, but the canvas proved deceptive.

Peslier turned on the afterburner just as the partnership came before the towering stands which housed an audience of 65,000. At the line, his advantage was still a length and three-quarters from France's Field Of Hope. "What I liked was that as soon as he [Peslier] turned in he made a thorough commitment," Hills said. "He wasn't trying to hold on to the horse any more. He said there is plenty of horse here, let's go and do it. And then he took off, didn't he?"

Docksider may have saved the best to last, as the intention is to retire him to Kentucky's Airlie Stud. Hills, though, has still some begging to do. "I would have no problem sorting out a plan for him if he was kept in training," he said. "I've got to get my fivepennyworth in yet. From a pure training point of view the horse got better and better as the year went on and there are plenty more miles left on the clock. He's a sound horse and next year we could make a plan because we now know we have a horse to go to war with. But there is also the commercial aspect from the stallion standpoint."

Borgia has definitely gone after Peslier rode her to victory by a head from another French horse, Bimbola, and Godolphin's Sea Wave. Her next appointment is in Sadler's Wells' bedroom. The Vase was also the terminus for Silver Patriarch after 24 races and eight victories, including the 1997 St Leger. A 50 per cent portion in the grey has been donated to the National Stud by owner Peter Winfield, who died six weeks ago. John Dunlop's Castle Stables at Arundel will not be quite the same without the old soldier. "He's been a grand horse to have around," the trainer said.

The Listed Sprint was the only black hole for the visitors. Fairy King Prawn proved here both that Hong Kong can compete and that you don't need to be in possession of a romantic title for success. The David Nicholls pairing of Rudi's Pet and Proud Native finished sixth and 11th respectively, while Eric Alston's Tedburrow was 13th and last.

The little red pennants carried by just about all in the crowd were not fluttering at the climax, however. Europe's horses looked outstanding in the poinsettia-ringed paddock before the Group One Cup and so it proved in the race itself, with Jim and Tonic leading home the British-based trio of Running Stag, Lear Spear and Kabool.

Running Stag somehow contrived to get beaten in the less exotic surroundings of Lingfield's all-weather arena last month but he showed yesterday that that effort was a preposterous representation of his ability.

He collected HKUS2.2m (about pounds 190,000) for his effort to bring further delight to Philip Mitchell's modest Epsom operation. "This is what I've been in the game for 25 years for," the trainer said. "You wake up each morning thinking please God just give me one good horse and I have been blessed to have this guy. He just never stop improving."

Mitchell already has dates in Boston, Louisville, Chicago and finally the Breeders' Cup Classic inked in for the Millennium. Sha Tin and Hong Kong must also be a consideration in 12 months' time. The hospitality has been persuasively considerable this past week and Mitchell has not failed in his resolve to work through it all.


SPRINT (Listed, 5f): 1. FAIRY KING PRAWN (S King); 2. Crystal Charm; 3 Big Jag. 1, 11/4. 14 ran. (trained by P F Yiu). Win (inc HK$10 stake) 132.0; places 47.0, 67.5, 41.0. Quinella 1657.5. Tierce 65915. Trio 7677.

MILE (Group 2, 1m): 1. DOCKSIDER (O Peslier); 2. Field Of Hope, 3. Resfa. 11/4, nk. (J Hills) 12 ran. win 21.5; places 13.5, 26.0, 19.0. Quinella 123. Tierce 849. Trio 298.

VASE (Group 2, 1m 4f): 1. BORGIA (O Peslier); 2 Bimbola; 3. Sea Wave. hd, 1/2. 11 ran. (A Fabre). win 71.5; 71.5, 122.0, 35.0. Quinella 2290.5. Tierce. 32244. Trio 4373.

CUP (Group 1, 1m2f): 1. JIM AND TONIC (G Mosse); 2. Running Stag; 3. Lear Spear. 33/4, 11/2.. 12 ran. (F Doumen). win 46.5; places 24.5, 65.5, 39.0. Quinella 499. Tierce 4919. Trio 1235.