Under Anton Marcus, Variety Club broke running and never looked back, winning the 2014 Champions Mile (G1) at Sha Tin in wildly impressive fashion, leaving 3-5 favourite Able Friend four lengths adrift in second. The tally marks the 17th time in 23 outings Variety Club has landed in the winner’s enclosure. The start was the first for Variety Club since his win over now stable companion Soft Falling Rain in the Godolphin Mile (G2) at the Dubai World Cup meeting.
According to owner Ingrid & Markus Jooste’s racing manager Derek Brugman, an ambitious, appropriate, and wildly exciting campaign is set for Variety Club – “He will go to Mike’s yard in Newmarket now for some time off. Ultimately we will probably be thinking about the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp and then probably the Breeders’ Cup Mile. I’m not sure if he will have a race in England – we’ll see how he pulls up but we want to give him a break. The Prix de la Foret is a qualifying race for the Breeders’ Cup, so it makes sense to go there.”
While a review of the form would indicate such, the Racing Post’s Ron Wood made it clear on Twitter the quality of this victory:
Watching Champions Mile again, brilliant from Variety Club. Best miler in HK 4l 2nd, last year's winner 3rd, one-two from HK Mile 4th & 5th
— Ron Wood (@ron_a_wood) May 4, 2014
Jason Tan, producer for the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s broadcast team, put the win in added perspective:
Lord Kanaloa & Variety Club have come to HK this season & smashed the best locals over distances where it's hardest for visitors. #awesome
— Jason Tan (@JSLTan) May 4, 2014
Below, see comments from the Hong Kong Jockey Club press release:
“He’s a super horse and it’s just a privilege to work with him,” said de Kock who took over the training of the horse from Joey Ramsden. “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.”
“It’s nice to have a bit of kudos heaped upon you but in fairness I have to give this horse all of the credit, he’s just an absolute professional and I’m merely a pilot,” said jockey Anton Marcus.
“If you look at the field, the horses that he took on and the ratings, it probably was his litmus test and he’s come through it with flying colours,” the rider said of this season’s G2 Godolphin Mile victor who took his record to 17 wins from 23 starts.
“You saw today what he was all about, he’s taken on horses with home town advantage – I guess with the law of averages, eventually you had to get the international winner. It’s probably the crowning moment of my career, purely because Markus (Jooste) is here – usually Markus can’t manage to be on-course and he’s been such a great support to me over the past 12 years, so to pay him back is wonderful.”
“We were pretty sure before the race that this was one of the best mile races we’ve ever staged in Hong Kong and I personally think we saw that in the outcome. It was wonderful to see South Africa’s two-time champion give a world-class performance,” said Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer.
“We have an ambition to keep the Champions Mile among the Top 50 Group 1 races in the world and this race stood out as a world class race – we will not rest on our laurels though.
“I’m also delighted for Mike de Kock, who is a great supporter of Hong Kong racing and a great supporter of international racing,” he continued. “It’s a great result; it’s good news for the race, for the sport and for international racing that an international horse has won the Champions Mile for the first time – and it’s a great lead-in to the Asian Racing Conference.”