How Brett Prebble repaid David Oughton for saving his Hong Kong career with historic win in Australi
Brett Prebble won more than 800 races in Hong Kong. However, it is one of his five overseas victories aboard locally trained gallopers that people have been remembering ahead of Romantic Warrior running in Saturday’s Group One Turnbull Stakes (2,000m).
In the latest edition of Tongue Tie Off, a new Q&A series with racing personalities connected to the city, Prebble recalls Cape Of Good Hope’s history-making 2005 Group One Australia Stakes/William Reid Stakes (1,200m) success, relives the highs and lows of his favourite international triumph and reveals the Hong Kong-based superstar he adored.
What do you remember about Cape Of Good Hope and the events of Saturday, February 19, 2005?
He was a pretty genuine horse. He was very honest and tough. He had a horrid time in Hong Kong running into Silent Witness – he couldn’t beat him. I wasn’t riding him so much then. I got on him later in his career. I think he got better as he got older.
Nothing fazed him. He was like a dog. He used to get around with his tongue hanging out. He was a funny old horse. You could dig him out of the gates. He wouldn’t over-race. He’d take a position, switch off, and then give you everything he had.
That day at Moonee Valley, I was very confident. He was well over the odds. They underestimated him. He took a position and was going to win a long way out. He produced a really good turn of foot. It was a buzz. It was great to win on a Hong Kong horse, and his trainer, David Oughton, was a great bloke, too.
David gave me my first Group One in Hong Kong. If it hadn’t been for him, I’d have been finished there before I’d started. I wouldn’t have stuck around. I was getting my butt kicked. I felt I was riding well, but in Hong Kong, if you don’t get on the right horses, you can’t win. It’s
very tough. It was fitting I was able to repay him with that victory.
Only Zac Purton (seven) has ridden more Hong Kong-trained winners outside the city than you. Which is the most memorable of your five victories – one in Australia, one in Japan and three in Singapore?
Bullish Luck’s win in the 2006 Group One Yasuda Kinen (1,600m) at Tokyo. It’s one of the most memorable victories of my entire career. It was exceptional. The horse’s performance was quite extraordinary. He gave me an amazing feeling.
There were about 180,000 people there. I saluted, and when I turned around to look at the grandstand, it was so long and full that I just thought, wow.
I was going to get a Lamborghini for 12 months – Bullish Luck’s owner, Wong Wing-keung, offered to lend his car to me – but I wasn’t allowed to accept the gift because of Jockey Club rules.
Which Hong Kong-based gallopers were your favourites during your time in the city?
My best sprinter was Sacred Kingdom. My best miler was Bullish Luck. My best mate was Lucky Nine.
Lucky Nine was a very courageous horse. He had a heap of issues. Caspar Fownes had to keep him to sprinting because he couldn’t stretch him out. He was a bad bleeder. I won a Hong Kong Group One Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400m) and a Classic Mile on him, but Caspar had to keep to 1,200m. I won two Group One International Sprints (1,200m) at Kranji on him. It should have been three.
How do you think Romantic Warrior will fare in his races on Australian soil in the next few weeks?
James McDonald has had a little bit to do with Romantic Warrior having a run in the Turnbull Stakes before going to the Cox Plate. It’s very astute planning. The Turnbull Stakes is a nice soft option for the horse’s first time going left-handed in a race. He’s the horse to beat, and if he turns up in anything like his best form, he’ll win and bolster his position as the Cox Plate favourite.
Romantic Warrior is a very good horse. Most overseas racing fans underestimate Hong Kong horses like him and, of course, Golden Sixty. I don’t. They’re winners. They’re super hard to beat because their home environment makes them mentally tough.
There are few more mentally tough people in Hong Kong racing than your great rival, Douglas Whyte. How do you reflect on the 2009-2010 season in which you finished one win behind him in the title race?
It’s a bit of a kick in the bum, I suppose. You don’t get paid for winning a premiership, but it would have been very nice to do it for my family. In saying that, I still had a fantastic year, including winning the Group One Golden Slipper (1,200m) on Crystal Lily during a trip back to Australia.
It was one of the toughest duels – both mentally and physically – I’ve been through, but that’s Douglas, isn’t it? He wasn’t going to give it up. He knew how hard it was to be a champion. They say it’s harder to stay a champion than to be a champion once.
Finally, where are you riding these days, and could you see yourself riding in Hong Kong again?
I’ve been in Sydney for about eight or nine months now. I love the lifestyle. It’s very enjoyable. The weather is much kinder than it is in Melbourne. It’s a good spot to live, and I’ve got some good rides on the weekend, including the favourite in a A$1.5 million (HK$7.5m) race. I’m on Waterford for Chris Waller in the Listed Alan Brown Stakes (1,400m).
I don’t know about riding full-time in Hong Kong again. I’ve got my life set up here now, and I wouldn’t like to uproot everything. However, I’d love to come up for a short stint. I’d very much like that. There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of racing at Happy Valley and Sha Tin.
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