Japanese raider Neorealism held off a late challenge from the fast-finishing Pakistan Star to win Sunday’s Audemars Piguet QE II Cup at Hong Kong’s Shatin racecourse.
Neorealism, perfectly ridden by Brazilian-born jockey Joao Moreira, prevailed in a thrilling finish to win the HK$20 million (US$2.6 million)event over 2,000 metres.
Nicknamed the Magic Man because of his extraordinary success in the saddle, Moreira produced another masterful ride, catching his opponents napping with a bold mid-race move.
With the early pace unusually slow as none of the eight runners wanted to set a fast tempo up front, Moreira instinctively swept around the field and charged to the front with 1,000 metres to go.
Neorealism, which started at odds of 7-2, opened up a small but decisive break on the field as they turned for home. None of the backmarkers could catch the six-year-old chestnut, who claimed his third win from eight starts for master trainer Noriyuki Hori.
"He didn't really jump as well as we expected: we thought he was going to be able to lead but as he jumped a little bit slow I had to give him a chance to get cover behind horses," Moreira said.
"The pace slowed so much on the back straight, so I had to pop out and get going. He got going but he wasn't at his top speed, so I was always confident that once we turned for home he was going to finish off strongly, which he did."
The German-bred Pakistan Star, tipped as a future champion after finishing runner-up in the Hong Kong Derby, rattled home strongly with Silvestre De Sousa in the irons to finish second, beaten by a neck.
Last year’s winner Werther was third, another neck behind, missing his chance to emulate Japan’s Eishin Preston (2002, 2003) as the only back-to-back winner of the race.
Neorealism became just the third Japanese-trained horse to win the event, following Eishin Preston and Rulership (2012).
"Japanese horses are strong everywhere they go,” Moreira said. “I'm blessed to be his jockey today."
Regarded as one of the premier horse races in Asia, the event was first run in 1975 at Happy Valley racecourse during a visit by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1995 it became an international event with overseas runners invited to take part and was promoted to Group One status in 2001.