Russian Emperor landed a famous victory for Hong Kong in the Group 1 H.H. The Amir Trophy (2400m) for trainer Douglas Whyte and jockey Alberto Sanna on Saturday afternoon (18 February) at Al Rayyan in Doha, Qatar.
Settled at the rear of the field throughout against runners from Ireland, France, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Sanna bided his time aboard last season's Hong Kong Champion Stayer (2021/22) before peeling out on the turn for home to loom large with 300m left to run.
Surging with unanswerable late burst, Russian Emperor made history as the first winner for Hong Kong in Qatar by taking the US$2.5 million (approx. HK$19.6 million) contest as he defied Warren Point for Godolphin and the French-trained Bolthole in 2:25.46.
“It's amazing – it's the first time I have travelled a horse abroad and I'm only new to the training ranks but he's a special horse to me,” Whyte said.
The win was Russian Emperor's fifth of his career having prevailed in Ireland and Great Britain for Aidan O'Brien prior to transferring to Hong Kong. The Galileo gelding won the 2022 Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) and 2022 Group 1 Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) last season in Hong Kong – his only wins in the city.
“I've won two Group 1 races with him in Hong Kong and I just thought he was the right horse to travel with temperament-wise. I must say that he's really blossomed since he's landed in Qatar,” Whyte said.
Russian Emperor holds entries for both the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m) and G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) at Meydan on Dubai World Cup Night (March 25).
Sanna – who hails from Italy – is based in Qatar and was elated with victory this afternoon.
“All the credit to Douglas, who was my friend when I was there (in Hong Kong). He trusted me and he put me back on his top horse,” Sanna said.
Russian Emperor – a six-year-old – finished sixth last time out behind Golden Sixty in the Group 1 Stewards' Cup (1600m) at the start of this month before departing for the Middle East.
“It's very good and a happy race for me,” Sanna said. “Everything went to plan and dreams come true sometimes.”
France's Inverness finished fourth, while the O'Brien-trained Broome crossed in fifth position.