12/15/2002 1:00AM

Precision captures Hong Kong Cup

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HONG KONG - Precision completed a banner day for Hong Kong-based horses on a card punctuated by similar longshots with a 64-1 surprise in the $2.32 million Hong Kong Cup, the richest of the four Hong Kong International Races on Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse.

Precision's price was a record for the International Races. He won a head bob over 20-1 shot Paolini after they dueled through the final furlong of the 1 1/4-mile race. Dano-Mast, at 30-1, was third, with third-choice Sarafan an unlucky fourth after a rough trip. Grandera, the 7-10 favorite, was seventh in the field of 12.

Hong Kong-based runners took two other races. Olympic Express, at 48-1, captured the $1.8 million Hong Kong Vase at 1 1/2 miles, and favored All Thrills Too won the $1.28 million Hong Kong Sprint at five furlongs. Ange Gabriel, based in France, won the $1.8 million Hong Kong Vase. All the races were run on turf, on a right-handed course.

American runners had a poor day. Sarafan ran the best, and was the most unfortunate. Texas Glitter, in his final career start, finished eighth in the Sprint. Falcon Flight was third, and Delta Form last, in the 14-horse Vase. Cayoke was sixth in the Mile.

A crowd of 55,451 saw the races on a warm, but pleasant, afternoon. Betting handle from those on-track, and at off-course sites, was approximately $138 million.

Horses based in Hong Kong are generally considered a cut below the best Group 1 horses in the world. Winning three of the day's four international races, and finishing one-two in two of the races, was their finest hour in this event, which this year drew runners from 11 countries.

"I think this proves that Hong Kong horses are up to world standard," said Precision's trainer, David Oughton, who admitted he was "surprised" his horse won.

Oughton, a native of England, has trained in Hong Kong for 15 years. He trains Precision for owner Wu Sai Wing.

"Certainly this is one of the greatest days in Hong Kong racing," said Lawrence Wong, the chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Precision was hard to find on form. A winner of just three of his previous 16 starts, he was winless in his last eight starts, and had not won since beating the equivalent of a classified allowance field at Sha Tin on Jan. 20.

But Precision, kept just off a dawdling pace by jockey Mick Kinane, was in an ideal position in a race were several better-regarded horses had awful trips. Precision, third at the top of the stretch, just out-nodded the German runner Paolini, who sneaked through along the rail, to win by officially by a short head, the United States equivalent of a nose. Dano-Mast, from Sweden, was beaten a half-length, with Sarafan a half-length farther back.

"I had a smooth run on the outside, while everyone else was having a rough time on the rail," Kinane said.

Racing in a course rated good-to-firm, Precision was timed in 2:07.1, but the final time was impacted by the shockingly slow fractions. The opening quarter was run in 27.50 seconds, the half in 55.30, and six furlongs in 1:20.90. With the final quarter being run in 22.10 seconds, horses at the rear had no chance.

Included was Sarafan, who was shuffled back to last while being bumped during a rough run around the first turn. He finished fastest of all, with a final quarter that had to be run in 21 seconds and change.

"I'm lucky we made it back after that race," said jockey Corey Nakatani. "My horse ran a great race. There was no pace. We got shuffled back too far."

Grandera also was uncomfortable while in traffic for the first mile of the race, but he did not finish as sharply as many others.

In the day's other races:

SPRINT

All Thrills Too and Firebolt led a one-two finish of Australian runners in a race run over a straightaway. All Thrills Too won by 1 1/2 lengths, with Firebolt three-quarters of a length in front of third-place Falvelon, the Australian sprinter who was seeking to become the first horse to win three straight International Races.

All Thrills Too, sent off at 5-2, was winning for the eighth time in 19 starts. He was timed in 56.40 seconds for five furlongs. Gerald Mosse rode All Thrills Too for trainer David Hayes. He is owned by Alan Lam Man Bun(CQ).

Texas Glitter did not kick on while finishing eighth under Edgar Prado.

"I'm perplexed. He fooled us," said Michael McCarthy, the assistant to Texas Glitter's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "I thought 2 1/2 furlongs out he was going to be okay, but he never really accelerated. It's been a pleasure to be around a horse like that. I wish he would have gone out a winner."

Texas Glitter is heading to stud in Florida.

MILE

As in the Sprint, Hong Kong-based runners took the first two spots, with Olympic Express holding off Electronic Unicorn to win by a neck, with Tokai Point another head back in third, and Admire Cozzene a neck farther back in fourth in a blanket finish.

Noverre, sent off at even-money despite a nine-race losing streak, including five as the race favorite, was eighth in the field of 12.

Olympic Express was timed in 1:34.90 under jockey Weichong Marwing(CQ). Ivan Allan trains Olympic Express for owner Larry C.K. Yung. Although he had never won an open group race, Olympic Express did capture the Hong Kong Derby this year. The second-place finisher was Precision, who won Sunday's Hong Kong Cup.

VASE

Ange Gabriel closed quickly to beat fellow French runner Aquarelliste by three-quarters of a length, with Falcon Flight another half-length back in third and Ekraar fourth.

Ange Gabriel was able to overcome the dawdling pace set by Ekraar, who set fractions of 25.90, 50.80, and 1:16.50 for the first six furlongs of the 1 1/2-mile race. His winning time was 2:28.40.

Thierry Jarnet rode Ange Gabriel for trainer Eric Libaud and owners Henri and Antonia Devin. He was the 5-1 fourth choice, with Aquarelliste favored at 9-5.

Ange Gabriel was winning for the third straight time, his previous victories coming in Group 1 and Group 2 company in France.