12/11/2016 8:52AM

Aerovelocity holds off Lucky Bubbles in Hong Kong Sprint

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HONG KONG – Aerovelocity won the 2014 Hong Kong Sprint, missed the race last year, and won it again Sunday, just holding off fast-closing favorite Lucky Bubbles to score by a nose at Sha Tin Racecourse.

It was a victory for the senior set: Australian-bred Aerovelocity is an 8-year-old on Southern Hemisphere time, 9 in the Northern Hemisphere. Aerovelocity has battled through a variety of ailments, including a heart irregularity that nearly ended his career. He had finished third in his first two starts this Hong Kong season before breaking through at a most opportune moment.

“It’s a good feeling because we were of the opinion we were starting to lose him,” winning rider Zac Purton said. “Although he didn’t perform his best today, his heart’s just so big.”

Lucky Bubbles, a hold-up closer, raced in a thicket of horseflesh into the homestretch, found room and came with a powerful wide run but just missed while moving best late.

“If I got out early he wins, full stop,” jockey Brett Prebble said. “He is the best horse in the race.”

Peniaphobia, who won this race wire to wire last year, set the pace again Sunday and held third. Pure Sensation, the only American runner here in Hong Kong, was scratched Sunday morning because of continuing lameness in his left foreleg.

Aerovelocity broke sharply under Purton for post 2 but was outrun by rail-drawn Peniaphobia, whose first 400 meters, with Super Jockey pressing, went in 23.90, .35 seconds slower than the Group standard for 1200 meters on this course. Aerovelocity raced from third, moved forward as the field straightened for home, passed Super Jockey 200 meters out, got his head in front with 100 to run, and just did hold off Lucky Bubbles, who was at least slightly compromised by the moderate early tempo.

Aerovelocity was timed in 1:08.80 for 1200 meters on good ground and paid $15.10 in U.S wagering. A New Zealand-bred trained by Paul O’Sullivan, Aerovelocity, called Naisoso Warrior before being imported to Hong Kong, is by Pins. He has won half the 24 starts in his career, 23 of which have come in Hong Kong for owner Daniel Ngai.