Apache Cat third at Sha Tin

The latest Australian bid for international racing success came unstuck at Sha Tin on Sunday – but it took one of the world’s most powerful Aussie combinations to do it.

ApacheCat copy Apache Cat, Australia’s highest-rated racehorse, finished a puzzling third in the $HK12 million ($A2.3 million) Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) behind locally-trained gallopers Inspiration and Green Birdie.

It was the second time in as many years that a well-fancied Australian sprinter had been beaten in the race, Miss Andretti having proved a total flop 12 months ago.

As it was a year ago when Sacred Kingdom claimed victory, the winner was an Australian-bred horse.

This time though, it was also trained and ridden by Australians.

Inspiration is trained by John Moore and was handled by Darren Beadman, the former being the leader of the Hong Kong trainers’ championship and the latter in second place in the race for the jockeys’ title.

Apache Cat’s performance at least surpassed that of Miss Andretti, although it appeared for a few strides that it might not.

When jockey Corey Brown asked the gelding for his supreme effort at the 300m, Apache Cat offered him nothing.

But as the winner raced clear of him and Green Birdie loomed up on the outside, the $1.80 favourite snapped into action and put himself back in the race.

Trainer Greg Eurell acknowledged his horse had appeared to have developed a flat spot in his races, suggesting he might be looking for longer races.

"It’s been there a couple of times and it’s bobbed up again," Eurell said.

"He got through it and got rolling again."

Apache Cat suffered slight interference in the final 100 metres, just as he was warming up.

But neither his trainer nor his jockey complained about it.

"He had to change direction just a touch, probably it wasn’t why he got beat, but if he’d got a clean run it might have been more interesting." Eurell said.

"But by the time he hit his top, the others were already at theirs."

For the eighth successive year, the Sprint went to an Australian-bred horse.

But it hasn’t been since Falvelon won this race in 2001 that an Australian-trained runner has succeeded at Hong Kong’s international meeting.

For Apache Cat’s connections, the performance at least provided more consolation that the $HK1.2 million they received for third place.

Eurell and senior part-owner Paul Radford said Sunday’s effort encouraged them to tackle more of the world’s best sprints.

It is likely that Apache Cat will have a run or two in Melbourne in the autumn before tackling the KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore in May in an attempt to follow the example of Takeover Target who won the race this year.

The Royal meeting at Ascot in England would then be his target.

"The way he handled this trip you’d certainly have to look at it," Eurell said.

"I think the opportunity will be there again."

Earlier, the Australian-trained Douro Valley finished a disappointing ninth in the $HK14 million ($A2.69 million) Hong Kong Vase (2400m).

Trainer Danny O’Brien said he would have preferred the horse to have been ridden differently, but he agreed the horse had been outclassed.

With Beadman in the saddle, Douro Valley had a cosy run on the pace but failed to go with the leaders when they sprinted 400 metres out.

"He’s just not the sort of horse can sprint quickly off a slow tempo," O’Brien said.

"It wasn’t the perfect way to ride this horse.

"But he really wasn’t good enough."

By Mike Hedge