SINGAPORE - Hong Kong's Southern Legend, winless for a year, bounced back in the same race he won 12 months ago - the invitational $1.5 million Kranji Mile - on Saturday (May 25).
Hong Kong provided the quinella last year with Horse Of Fortune and were expected to provide a 1-2 finish again but Singapore Sling faded to finish third of 10 runners in Singapore's richest race.
Local galloper Blizzard, previously based in the former British colony before being sent here to be trained by Singapore champion trainer Lee Freedman, was second.
Coincidentally, the three top-finishing jockeys were Hong Kong-based - Zac Purton, Aldo Domeyer and Karis Teetan respectively.
Purton rode the perfect race on the $8 favourite. He won from start to finish last year but elected to sit behind the speed last night, led by Singapore Sling, who crossed in from the outer-most barrier.
Countofmontecristo cut the leader's advantage from two lengths to a length at the halfway stage and to only about a head on straightening.
Domeyer made his move on Blizzard, so did Purton on Southern Legend. Although he hit the front 400m out, Purton knew he had plenty of horseflesh underneath him. The moment he pressed the button at the 300m mark, the race was all over bar the shouting.
He went to to beat Blizzard by 2 1/2 lengths in near course-record time with his run in 1min 33.61sec.
Southern Legend had failed to win again after last year's Kranji Mile but was placed in several of the Group races behind the world's top miler Beauty Generation and another world-beater, Exultant.
The six-year-old ran what his trainer Caspar Fownes deemed as a disappointing sixth in the Group 1 Dubai Turf over 1,800m at Meydan last start on March 30 but the three-time Hong Kong champion was pleased with the back-to-back achievement.
"It's always good to bounce back off a disappointing race in Dubai. But he came here and he loves Singapore," said Fownes, who won the now-defunct Group 1 KrisFlyer International Sprint three times with with Green Birdie and Lucky Nine (twice).
"He travelled up beautifully and he looked a treat the last couple of days and I was happy. I said to Zac just jump him well, get him motivated and you just work it out yourself. It was pretty exciting."
Purton must have been smiling inside when Teetan pressed forward with the Tony Millard-trained Singapore Sling, who is raced by Nikki Ng, the daughter of Singapore-born property tycoon Robert Ng and grand-daughter of the late Singapore billionaire Ng Teng Fong.
"When Singapore Sling went forward, I thought great. I was happy to let him go and waited for the last quarter. It set the race for us. I think they got the tactics wrong for Singapore Sling," said Purton, who won the now-defunct $3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup in 2013 with Military Attack and the $2015 KrisFlyer International Sprint with Aerovelocity.
Besides taking out the Kranji Mile last year, he also captured the Group 1 Singapore Guineas on the same night with Mr Clint.
On Saturday, Purton finished third in the Guineas over 1,600m on Lim's Lightning and was second in the Lion City Cup over 1,200m on Lim's Cruiser.
Both Group 1 races carried $800,00 in prize money were taken out by two-time Singapore champion jockey Vlad Duric on the Michael Clements-trained Top Knight and the Shane Baertschiger-trained Aramco respectively.
Southern Legend's owner Boniface Ho was gracious in his victory speech, paying tribute to Singapore Sling and his trainer Tony Millard, who also saddled Kranji Mile runner-up Horse Of Fortune last year.
"I want to say a few words about the other (Hong Kong) horse, Singapore Sling, which I respect very much," said Ho.
"I had said during the draw that he was the one to beat but I don't know. He was forward in this race and I must give my commiserations to the trainer Tony and I hope he will win next year."