By Richard Rosenblatt
Five weeks after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in Breeders’ Cup history, Order of Australia was primed for an encore performance in Hong Kong.
More than 8,000 miles away from the scene of his improbable 73-1 score in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) at Keeneland, the 4-year-old colt faded in the stretch and finished sixth behind Golden Sixty in the $3.2 million Hong Kong Mile (G1) at Sha Tin Racecourse on Saturday night.
Sent off at 10-1 in a 10-horse field, Order of Australia kept pace with the leaders, and remained in contention until Hong Kong-based Golden Sixty, the 4-5 favorite, surged to the front. And in the final dash to the finish, Order of Australia was not up to the task as Golden Sixty prevailed for his 11thstraight victory.
At the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 7, Order of Australia was a last-minute entry into the BC Mile after One Master was scratched. In addition, regular rider Christophe Soumillon had a positive COVID-19 test and was replaced by fellow Frenchman Pierre-Charles Boudot. The result? Order of Australia led a 1-2-3 finish for trainer Aidan O’Brien, with the colt winning by a neck over stablemate Circus Maximus. A $2 win bet was worth $148.40, the second highest Breeders’ Cup payoff behind Arcangues, who won the 1993 BC Classic at 133-1 odds and returned $269.20.
Prior to the Hong Kong Mile, O’Brien said Order of Australia, who was ridden again by Boudot, had been training well since the BC Mile, with the plan all along being that a good effort at the Breeders Cup would lead to an invite to Hong Kong.
The strategy worked, especially since Order of Australia got into the BC Mile, but he came up a bit short in Hong Kong.
Golden Sixty finished two lengths ahead of Southern Legend, with last year’s Hong Kong Mile winner, Admire Mars, finishing third. The 5-year-old Golden Sixty has won 14 of 15 career starts, all in Hong Kong.
In other races at Sha Tin at Hong Kong’s International Races, it was:
Japan-based mare Normcore won the $3.61 million Hong Kong Cup (G1), 22-1 longshot Danon Smash, ridden by Ryan Moore, won the $2.84 million Hong Kong Sprint (84-1 shot Jolly Banner was second), and O’Brien-trained Mogul (Ryan Moore aboard) won the $2.68 million Vase (G1).
Tax ($6.60) won for the first time in more than a year by taking the $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday (G3)by 4 ½ lengths and setting up a shot at the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) on Jan. 23.
Tax, 14th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and fourth in the Belmont Stakes (G1) in 2019, won the 2019 Jim Dandy (G2) but was 0-for-4 coming into the Harlan’s Holiday (including a ninth-place finish in the 2020 Pegasus World Cup).
The 4-year-old was making his first start since a fifth in the Oaklawn Handicap on May 2.
“I think this will be his best year. He’s grown, developed. He’s sound,’’ trainer Danny Gargan said, looking ahead to 2021. “He’s bigger, stronger than he’s ever been. I couldn’t be happier with him today.”
Ridden by Luis Saez, Tax covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.14 after taking the lead from the start.
Capping a four-win day at Gulfstream for trainer Todd Pletcher, Largent ($35.80) rallied to win the $200,000 Fort Lauderdale (G3) and punch his ticket to the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) on Jan. 23.
Ridden by Paco Lopez for the first time, Largent moved to the far outside approaching the stretch and outran the field for a two-length victory in a time of 1:46.16 for 1 /1/8 miles over a turf course rated good.
“He’s always loved Gulfstream,’’ said Pletcher of Largent. “He’s always run very well here and we just felt like it was the right time to step up.”
The 4-year-old gelding has won four of five starts at Gulfstream, with one second.
A late congratulations to trainer/TV racing analyst Tom Amoss as the 2020 recipient of the Turf Publicists of America (TPA) Big Sport of Turfdom award.
The award, announced last week on FOX Sports’ broadcast of NYRA’s America’s Day at the Races, recognizes a person or group of people who enhances coverage of thoroughbred racing through cooperation with media and racing publicists.
Amoss has saddled more than 3,800 winners during his training career, highlighted by Serengeti Empress – winner of the 2019 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and 2020 Ballerina (G1) and Azeri (G2).
“I am humbled and honored to be the recipient of the Big Sport of Turfdom award,” Amoss said. “Please be assured I will wear it proudly and respectfully.”
Among previous winners of the award are trainersMark Casse, Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas; jockeys Mike Smith, Angel Cordero, Jr., and Gary Stevens; announcer Tom Durkin; author Laura Hillenbrand; broadcaster Jim McKay; and actors Tim Conway and Jack Klugman.
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.