Tony Millard snared his first Group One winner in over eight years at Sha Tin on Sunday, taking out the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2,400m) with South American import Panfield.

Millard declared after the three-time Chilean Group One winner’s third in March’s Hong Kong Derby that if his charge “had a decent draw I don’t think it would have been a contest” and his confidence in the horse was vindicated at the highest level.

“Going into this race I gave him a proper Millard preparation. We did a good 1,800m workout and if any of you saw it, it was unbelievable. He broke 60 seconds for 1,000m and he came home in 21.7 and Karis [Teetan] was hanging onto him. I said to Karis after that, ‘I don’t care how good they are, he’s ready’,” Millard said.

“Quite clearly a lot of the older horses are finished now so that puts him at the top spot as the best staying horse in Hong Kong.”

Teetan settled Panfield fourth in the run, within two or three lengths of leader Time Warp, before looming up outside Exultant straightening for home, hitting the front 200m out and fending off Columbus County to win by half a length.

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“Karis rode a beautiful race today, that’s exactly how we planned it and it worked out to an absolute tee,” Millard said.

“I’m very happy for him because it gives him the confidence to know that if he is on the right horse that he can do it. Quite clearly this horse was the right horse today and he did everything 100 per cent.”

Jockey Karis Teetan and trainer Tony Millard after their win.
Jockey Karis Teetan and trainer Tony Millard after their win.

Millard, whose last win at the top level came courtesy of Ambitious Dragon in the 2013 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, hopes Panfield’s win leads to greater success for his stable.

“Hopefully this will put us back on track because our numbers are a bit down,” he said. “We can do the job, we just need to get the horses in and the support and maybe I’ve been a bit lax, haven’t been as aggressive as I should be but I’ve been here a long time and I think my reputation speaks for itself.”

After dominating in his home country, Panfield was having just his seventh Hong Kong start and was sent out at $18.15 after finishing fifth last start in a slowly run Queen Mother Memorial Cup (2,400m).

“He was quite a backward type of horse [when he arrived] and he had a few problems. He’d gone in the wind and he’d had a suspensory, so we weren’t working with something which was 100 per cent,” Millard said.

“We had to be a bit careful but once he hardened up and got used to the tracks then he just progressed well.

“The Queen Mother, frankly speaking it wasn’t a race, it was a sit, sprint. You can’t run two seconds below standard and think it’s a race and on the back of that these other horses were all fancied.”

Teetan added a third international Group One to his Hong Kong resume to go with two aboard Mr Stunning and the Mauritian reflected on what has been a tough week since the passing of his countryman Nooresh Juglall following a race fall.

“I’m really glad I got this one home. It’s been a tough week. I needed this to get me back to work, to the track and I want to dedicate this to my wife [Xaviere]. She’s been by my side and she gives me confidence every day,” Teetan said.

Caspar Fownes rued what could have been with runner-up Columbus County but was quick to look forward.

“We were very unlucky because we lost our shoe at the 300m – his right front. Joao [Moreira] said he started to hang and … it’s enough. That’s racing,” he said.

“I’m just happy my horse ran where I thought he would run, he’s a really good stayer and now we’ll concentrate on getting him ready for December and taking on the Japanese. He’ll be better in the next six-seven months, so I look forward to it.”

Shooting for a third straight win in the race, reigning Horse of the Year Exultant stuck on to finish third.