Collier takes Vase honours

Collier Hill capped what has been a glorious second half of the season when leading home a clean sweep for the European raiders in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin.

Collier Hill capped what has been a glorious second half of the season when leading home a clean sweep for the European raiders in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin.

Alan Swinbank’s runner just held Irish challenger Kastoria and the French filly Shamdala in a thrilling finish to the Group One contest.

The eight-year-old was completing a hat-trick of wins after taking the Stockholm Cup in Sweden and the Canadian International at Woodbine on his last two starts.

He made all at Woodbine but was unable to match the strong pace set by Admire Main in the 12-furlong event.

Dean McKeown was bustling him along approaching the top bend but, when squaring-up for the home stretch, the gelding found his stride and bounded into a clear lead.

Kastoria and Michael Kinane were enduring a rough ride in behind though, and dropped back to near last when badly hampered, only to pick up stylishly when switched to the outer.

It was nip and tuck for Collier Hill in the final 100 yards but the post came just in time and the veteran held on by a nose.

McKeown, himself one of the veterans of the weighing room, said: “Six out I was absolutely flat to the boards but he kept finding for me and as soon as he saw daylight in the straight, he surged forward. When Kastoria came to challenge he stuck his head out at the right time.

“He’s done me proud by winning on four continents and I imagine if he comes out of this OK, he’ll be off to Dubai in March to try to better his second and third in the Sheema Classic.”

Swinbank revealed that Collier Hill had suffered a late health scare earlier in the week which had put his participation in question.

He explained: “He was a bit dehydrated on Thursday and for a time it was touch and go whether he would run, and it was only yesterday that he came right again.

“We’ve always had trouble with his joints and now we can look after them when he gets home. He deserves a break now, doesn’t he?

“Long term we might come back here next year, but you have to consider his age. In the meantime, he will go back to Dubai for the Sheema Classic in March when we will try to go one better than last year.”

Collier Hill is jointly-owned by David Abell, Russell Hall and Richard Crowe and the latter was thrilled to have landed another big prize.

“He’s a big horse with a game heart. I was fortunate enough to buy into him in October last year and it’s been an unbelievable story ever since,” he said.

Hall added: “Alan Swinbank said he’d take us all round the world and we’ve been three-quarters of the way already on what has been a memorable ride.”

John Oxx took the unlucky defeat of Kastoria on the chin and she could also head to Dubai for a rematch on her final run before retiring to the paddocks.

The trainer said: “She ran a cracker and that was right up to her best form.

“It was almost a repeat of the Curragh Cup earlier in the year but unfortunately we were knocked back from a lovely position on the heels of the leaders. Three horses squeezed her up and suddenly she was last but she flew home.

“She likes fast ground and in that respect Dubai will suit. She’ll be covered at some time next year but Dubai would fit in with the mating plan timing-wise.”

Sir Michael Stoute’s Maraahel failed to improve on his third place in last year’s Hong Kong Cup when finishing fifth over two furlongs further in the Vase.

Jockey Richard Hills said: “The strong pace should have suited him but he didn’t pick up like he did in the Cup last year.”

Seamus Heffernan felt the Aidan O’Brien-trained Scorpion was a little unlucky in running, adding: “I was help up at a vital time by Saturn.”

O’Brien said of his seventh-placed runner: “Obviously he just didn’t come on quite as well as we hoped.

“We rushed him a bit to get to America and then here and he probably wants a break now. We’ve still got faith in him.”

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