Legend scales Everest, Hong Kong next
The Hong Kong Jockey Club will grant an exception to The Everest (1200m) winner Classique Legend (5 g Not A Single Doubt – Pinocchio by Encosta De Lago) to join the stable of Caspar Fownes, with owner Bon Ho keen to tackle the world – starting with the Hong Kong Sprint (Gr 1, 1200m) – after he conquered Australia’s biggest monetary prize at Randwick yesterday. Classique Legend has long shaped as a sprinter of the highest calibre but the arrogant manner in which he took the world’s richest race on turf was breathtaking.
He defeated Group 1 winners Bivouac (Exceed And Excel) and Gytrash (Lope De Vega) by two and a half lengths and three lengths respectively to claim the $15 million feature. It justified octogenarian trainer Les Bridge’s pronouncement that the five-year-old is on par with, if not better than, his 1983 Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) hero Sir Dapper (Vain) and his popular mare Hot Danish (Nothin’ Leica Dane). “The horse I got the most pleasure out of in my life was Hot Danish, because at the time my wife was dying with cancer and every time that horse won it gave her a lift.
So there will never be a horse to replace Hot Danish in my sentiments,” Bridge said yesterday. “But this horse has got a girth on him that deep and he’s just got a big V8 motor. It’s unbelievable.” Classique Legend was due to head to Hong Kong after finishing midfield in last year’s Everest, but the trip was aborted twice, according to Ho’s racing manager Carmel Size. She purchased the Wallings Bloodstockbred grey for $400,000 at the 2017 Inglis Classic Yearling Sale. “I love him so much, I’ve been obsessed with him since I laid eyes on him.
That is a great horse, we have seen something special today,” she said. “I’m so proud of the horse. To think I bought him as a yearling and I’ve been able to look after him, it’s just been the world to me. I might have to retire now. “He was on the flight twice, it got shot down and he came back to me. He’s been in the stable since March 21, a very unorthodox preparation, but gee, what a marvel Les Bridge is. He’s a legend.” If he had gone, he would have tackled the Four-Year-Old Classic Series, featuring the Hong Kong Classic Mile (Listed, 1600m), the Hong Kong Classic Cup (Listed, 1800m) and the Hong Kong Derby (Listed, 2000m); all three legs were won by Golden Sixty (Medaglia d’Oro), the new star on the Hong Kong scene.
However, if Ho’s plan comes to fruition, perhaps the mantle of Hong Kong’s leading horse will be up for debate over the coming months. A clash with his younger half-brother Aethero (Sebring), currently on the sidelines due to injury, is also potentially on the cards.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club closely controls its Private Purchase imports – those that arrive in the territory having raced abroad – and generally, horses must arrive before the start of their five-year-old season. Nevertheless, the South China Morning Post reported that Ho would receive an exception to ship Classique Legend to Sha Tin, with the owner confirming to Andrew Bensley last night that his intention was to put his star into quarantine on Monday and give him 12 months to tackle the world before returning to defend his title in 2021.
“I’ve got a slot in The Everest for three years and Classique Legend is likely to return next year – unless I have a better sprinter at home,” Ho said. “But I think Classique Legend is one of the top two or three sprinters in the world if he is ridden the right way.
I think the horse will have a better opportunity to shine globally if he is based in Hong Kong. “We can race him in Dubai, Tokyo and even Royal Ascot but I hope he can be back in Sydney next year for The Everest again. With his ability, he should be an international horse and I think the Hong Kong Jockey Club has the better facilities for him, they will be able to cater for him and do all the paperwork for me.”
For rider Kerrin McEvoy, it was his third Everest win in what was just the race’s fourth year, following up on his victories aboard Redzel (Snitzel). “It is an unbelievable feeling to win another one,” he said. “Every big win is special. I was lucky enough to team up with Redzel soon after he got racing with the Snowdens.
This is a horse that Carmel and Les threw me on really early in his career and he showed instant brilliance. “I backed him to the hilt from then on to win a good race. Last year was a tough call, I had to stick solid with Redzel and the Snowdens and this horse was a little bit unlucky. “We’ve all been on the same page that the horse has come back bigger and better. It is extra special.” Classique Legend’s win yesterday took his record to six wins and four placings from 12 starts with prize-money of $8,635,500.
That places him inside the top 10 highest-earning Australian-trained horses of all time. It also catapults Arrowfield Stud’s now-pensioned Not A Single Doubt (Redoute’s Choice) to the top of the Australian general sires table. Even with Classique Legend unlikely to provide a further boost to his overall total, he will be represented in the coming months by horses like Farnan, Anders, Doubtland and Instant Celebrity, all capable of bolstering his total earnings.