Win Marilyn does just that in the Hong Kong Vase (HKJC)
By Scott Burton
While the red, black and white silks of Win Company have fared well in Hong Kong thanks to dual Sha Tin winner Win Bright, it was a case of firsts all round for Damian Lane and Takahisa Tezuka as Win Marilyn passed the entire field to record an impressive debut Group 1 success in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
Lane refused to be panicked in a race with little early pace and, having broken best of all, allowed Win Marilyn to drift back through the field to the point where they had eight horses ahead of him turning for home.
As French-trained challenger Botanik made his bid for victory, Lane angled Win Marilyn to the outside and once the five-year-old daughter of Screen Hero hit her stride, the result was quickly settled.
Botanik stayed on well to be a length and a half back in second while hat-trick seeking Glory Vase bowed out with a courageous third-placed effort.
Lane’s previous best in six LONGINES Hong Kong International Race rides was third aboard Salios in the 2021 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) and he admitted that he had put himself under some pressure to get on the board.
“There was a little sense of relief I suppose, I’ve had a few goes here with no success,” said Lane.
Second to Daring Tact in the 2020 G1 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks), Win Marilyn came here off the back of what was arguably a career-best performance when denied by Geraldina in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
“She showed a good turn of foot at the end of her race which really suits the 2400 metres here in Hong Kong,” said Lane. “I thought the horse that beat her that day was something special so I was confident if she could hold that form today.”
Lane has enjoyed considerable success in Japan over the last four years, building on his Cox Plate-winning partnership with Lys Gracieux to record five Grade 1 victories in his adopted winter home.
He said: “It’s just a privilege to be part of Japanese racing and to get on these horses and great to be a part of it.”
A Grade 1 winner as far back as 2011, Tezuka has really taken his career to a new level in recent seasons thanks to horses such as 2021 Yushun Himba heroine Uberleben, as well as Schnell Meister and Fierement.
“This is my first trip to Hong Kong and I am very honoured to be with one of the horses representing Japan,” said Tezuka. “I am very glad to be here.”
After a fruitful 2021 campaign, Win Marilyn has improved steadily through the current season and showed her wellbeing when chasing home Jack d’Or and Panthalassa in the G2 Sapporo Kinen (2000m), before dead-heating for second behind Geraldina at Hanshin a month ago.
“After the Queen Elizabeth Cup when she ran second we talked about the Hong Kong trip with the owner and then we decided,” said Tezuka.
“This mare suits both 2000 metres and 2400 metres but this is the best trip for her and we decided to bring her.”
At five, Win Marilyn is now a valuable broodmare prospect to Big Red Farm but Tezuka held out the possibility that the owners might keep her in training in 2023.
Botanik had shown his potential when getting the better of Stay Foolish in the G2 Grand Prix de Deauville in August and trainer Andre Fabre was ready to forgive a sub-par effort on deep ground in the G2 Prix Dollar last up.
Deputising for Mickael Barzalona, William Buick was impressed with Botanik, who looks set to be an international flagbearer going forward for Godolphin.
“He’s run a blinder, he’s a lovely horse,” said Buck. “To be honest, if you ignore his run on Arc day, he looked like he had a real chance.
“Mr Fabre doesn’t send many horses here and when he does send them you know they have a chance.”
Buick added: “He’s Mickael’s ride and unfortunately Mickael has Covid so I’m only a step-in. But he’s going to be a real nice stayer for next year. He’s got a great attitude and he stayed well the whole way.”
There was to be no third success in this race for 2019 and 2021 winner Glory Vase but he still put up a brave performance to be third.
“He went alright, he did his best,” said Joao Moreira. “His condition was as good as it could be but with his age and younger horses coming up. I’m proud of what he has done.”
German hopes were dashed when Mendocino reared as the stalls opened and refused to race for Rene Piechulek.