By William Hughes
It is hard to imagine many more emotional victories at Sha Tin than if Beat The Bank were to win the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile on 9th December.
Owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died in a helicopter accident on 27th October outside the King Power Leicester City stadium – home of the English football club the Thai businessman propelled to an incredible Premier League title in 2016.
Football was not his only sporting passion, though. His interests also included a growing connection with racing in Britain, with Andrew Balding as his principal trainer.
“We had been talking about Hong Kong for Beat The Bank for some time,” Balding said. “Vichai was so enthusiastic about the horse going there. To follow his wishes and to travel this horse over after what happened is very important for us.”
Indeed, the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile was first suggested way back in July after the specialist miler won the Summer Mile at Ascot. A dynamic late surge took the gelding to another victory in Goodwood’s Celebration Mile in August.
Both wins came under Oisin Murphy. The ace rider will be in the saddle again at Sha Tin and is banking on his mount’s fighting qualities against a top-class field of opponents, which includes the world’s top-rated turf miler, Beauty Generation.
“He is so tough,” Murphy said. “He’s one of those horses who can win even when things don’t go right.”
Balding heads to Sha Tin off the back of his best ever season in Britain – 122 wins and £2.57 million prize money, as well as an extraordinary seven winners in one day.
He is acquainted with Hong Kong success, having saddled Phoenix Reach to win the Hong Kong Vase in only his second season as a licensed trainer. But that was 14 years ago.
With the passing of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha still raw for those who knew and respected him, a win for Beat The Bank would be a timely second HKIR success for the Kingsclere team and a fitting tribute to the late Leicester City boss.