Lord Byron down the field as Variety triumphs in Champions Mile at Sha Tin

Gordon Lord Byron finished down the field as South African star Variety Club bagged the Champions Mile at Sha Tin.

The Tom Hogan-trained Gordon Lord Byron was sharply away but jockey Zac Purton took a pull and settled in behind as Variety Club contested the early lead with Helene Spirit.

As the race began in earnest on the turn for home, Variety Club pushed to the front and began to assert as Gordon Lord Byron tried to make his challenge down the centre of the track.

However, he could not find any extra and it was left to Able Friend to chase home Variety Club, with Mike de Kock’s charge running out a four-length winner in the hands of Anton Marcus.

Dan Excel kept on for third while Gordon Lord Byron, who recently won a Group One in Australia, faded out of contention.

Marcus told At The Races: “It’s just pure elation – it’s hard to put into words right now.”

Variety Club had previously won the Godolphin Mile at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night.

Purton felt Gordon Lord Byron's wide draw in stall 13 of 14 runners had gone against his mount.

He told www.hkjc.com: “It was always going to be tough from the gate. He’s run a nice race.”

Variety Club was having his first official start for De Kock after running for former trainer Joey Ramsden at Meydan.

De Kock said: “It’s huge for us, it’s huge for South Africa, it’s fantastic for South African breeding.”

“He’s a super horse and it’s just a privilege to work with him.

“Without a really top team behind you this doesn’t happen and Trevor (Brown) has been great taking care of the horse while I’ve been back in South Africa. Everything went smoothly and that’s the most important thing, otherwise we wouldn’t be standing here.

“Basically he was in my care in Dubai anyway, so we’ve just cracked on as normal and it’s great for (owner) Markus (Joost), who is a massive player in South African racing.

“I’m privileged to have some really great highlights in my career. We’ve won the QEII Cup twice and the Hong Kong Cup, so this is right up there with all of them. Musir ran third in this race and this horse is a far better miler than Musir was. We were quietly confident.”

The five-year-old is now set to travel to De Kock’s Abington Place yard in Newmarket before targeting races in France and America.

Meanwhile Slade Power is likely to make his seasonal reappearance in the Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh on May 24.

Trainer Eddie Lynam always maintained his five-year-old was capable of reaching the same heights of dual Group One-winning stable companion Sole Power and he proved his quality in 2013.

The son of Dutch Art claimed the Sapphire Stakes and the Phoenix Sprint at the Curragh before his battling victory in the British Champions Sprint at Ascot.

He failed to fire in December’s Hong Kong Sprint, but Lynam feels there is plenty to look forward to this season.

He said: “He’s in very good form and will hopefully start off in the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh later in the month.

“All going well, we’ll probably head to the (Diamond) Jubilee at Royal Ascot and then he might run in the July Cup.”

Balmont Mast, another of Lynam’s top-class sprinters, ran some good races in Dubai earlier this year and will soon be on his travels again.

“He’s in good shape and is heading back to Singapore for the Krisflyer Sprint in a couple of weeks,” said the trainer.

“He was fourth in the race last year, it’s worth a lot of money and it’s an invitational race, so it make sense to go back there with him.

“We’re going to try him in a tongue-tie for the first time. We think that might help him.”

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox