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Irish-bred horses win big weekend races in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia

Mad Cool captures Sunday's Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Stakes at Chukyo Racecourse. Photo by and courtesy of Masakazu Takahashi
Mad Cool captures Sunday's Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Stakes at Chukyo Racecourse. Photo by and courtesy of Masakazu Takahashi

March 25 (UPI) -- Top-level weekend horse racing around the globe found Irish-bred horses winning the Hong Kong Derby, one of Japan's two biggest sprint races and one of five Group 1 stakes on the Saturday program in Australia.

Japan

Sunday's Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen is one of only two top-level sprints on the Japanese racing calendar and thus key to year-end honors.

Mad Cool, who finished second in the other Group 1 sprint, the Sprinters Stakes, last season, got the job done this time, using a rail-skimming trip to win by a head over late-closing Namura Clair with Hong Kong visitor Victor the Winner third.

Mad Cool's rider, Ryusei Sakai, said he was "so glad to have won this race after our narrow defeat last fall. He broke well and we were in an ideal position, right behind the pace, throughout the trip. The plan to stay in the inside for our attack at the stretch also worked to our advantage and he held on well to deter the chase from behind at the end."

Massive Sovereign wins Sunday's Hong Kong Derby in just his second local start. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club
Massive Sovereign wins Sunday's Hong Kong Derby in just his second local start. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club

"I've been riding this horse from early in his career and the connections had been eyeing this race from the beginning," Sakai said. "But he still has room for improvement so I look forward to his future as well."

Mad Cool is an Irish-bred son of Dark Angel.

Hong Kong

Massive Sovereign was a newcomer to the Hong Kong Derby series when he lined up for the big race Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse and a relative newcomer to Hong Kong with only one local race to his credit.

He nonetheless showed the series veterans how it's done, rallying dramatically through the final 200 meters to catch the breakaway leader and win by a nose over fellow closer Galaxy Patch.

Formerly trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, the No Nay Never gelding finished in race-record time of 1:59.89, breaking the mark set in 2022 by eventual three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty.

Trainer Dennis Yip said the win, all things being well, was enough to enter Massive Sovereign in next month's Group 1 QE II Cup at the same 2,000 meters as the Derby and his first victory in Hong Kong.

"I feel extremely honored and privileged to have found such a horse to win it," said jockey Zac Purton, who got just his second Derby win.

"It's the most prestigious race in Hong Kong and I've had a frustrating run in this race and a frustrating season, so it's nice to get another big one -- and probably the biggest one among the local races overall."

Australia

It was a day filled with Group 1 showdowns, four of them at Rosehill Gardens.

Lady of Camelot emerged from between rivals in a furious charge to the finish in Saturday's Group 1 Golden Slipper, billed as the richest 2-year-old race in the world, and won by a head from 41-1 chance Coleman.

The favorite, Storm Boy, broke poorly but raced well to get back to finish third.

Lady of Camelot, a daughter of Written Tycoon from the Fastnet Rock mare Miss Debutante, started the season with an impressive Group 3 win at Rosehill Gardens and followed that with a second in the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield.

Via Sistina rallied from the back of the field to capture the 2,000-meters Ranvet Stakes decisively over Place du Carrousel as only six faced the starter.

A 6-year-old Irish-bred mare by Fastnet Rock, Via Sistina was having her first start of the autumn season for trainer Chris Waller. Previously raced in England, the classy mare finished second to King of Steel in the Group 1 British Champion Stakes at Ascot in her final appearance before shipping.

Riff Rocket was scratched out of the Ranvet by trainer Waller in favor of the Rosehill Guineas and responded with a nearly last-to-first victory, defeating Coelwulf by some 3/4 lengths.

The American Pharoah gelding, who won the Group 1 Victoria Derby in November, was next-last nearing the turn, got into gear in the final 200 meters and hit the front with some 50 meters to run.

Veight edged Lady Laguna in the 1,500-meters George Ryder Stakes in a minor upset with the very lukewarm favorite, Think About It, reporting fourth.

A 3-year-old son of the New Zealand stallion Grunt, Veight improved on his second-place finish in the Group 1 Australian Guineas.

At The Valley, odds-on favorite Imperatriz just did get the win by a head over 70-1 long shot Johnny Rocker in the William Reed Stakes. Imperatriz, a 5-year-old I Am Invincible mare, earlier in the season won the Group 1 Lightning Stakes at Flemington and finished second behind Cylinder in the Group 1 Newmarket.