12/13/2009 1:00AM

Sacred Kingdom grabs second Sprint

Hong Kong Jockey Club
Sacred Kingdom and Brent Prebble take Sunday's Hong Kong Sprint, a race Sacred Kingdom also won in 2007.

Sacred Kingdom reclaimed his position as the best sprinter in the world at Sha Tin on Sunday with a convincing victory over a world-class field in the $1.5 million Hong Kong Sprint. The Ricky Yiu-trained Australian-bred prevailed by a half-length in the six-furlong dash as Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint winner California Flag faded to fifth after having dueled early with eventual also-ran Laurel Guerreiro.

In recapturing the title he had first won in 2007, Sacred Kingdom was defeating a field that included nine winners of 21 Group or Grade 1 races, making the Sprint the most hotly contested event of its type this year. Ridden by Brent Prebble, he tracked the pace in fifth or sixth place before accelerating to the lead approaching the sixteenth pole. He had no trouble holding off the late rush of early trailer One World as Joy and Fun came on for third, a neck behind the runner-up.

Sacred Kingdom started as the 1.55-1 favorite. His winning time was 1:09.16.

The first four home are all trained in Hong Kong as Green Birdie was fourth. California Flag led after a sixteenth of a mile, was soon passed by the Japanese-trained Laurel Guerreiro, but regained the lead under Joe Talamo after a quarter-mile and went two lengths clear at the three-sixteenths pole. His early exertions told on him, however, and he was ultimately beaten by 1 1/2 lengths for all the money.

"If I hadn't had the Japanese horse taking me on, we might have been able to hang on," lamented Talamo. "He was always making me do too much."

The other American runner, Cannonball, was closer than usual in fourth or fifth racing from the rail, but he faded to finish 10th, although only 3 1/2 lengths behind Sacred Kingdom.

"I had a good position and he traveled okay, but he didn't find anything in the alley," reported Cannonball's rider, Ramon Dominguez.

The three Australian runners expected to have a strong say in the affair were all outrun, Apache Cat finishing seventh, All Silent eighth, and Scenic Blast dead last of 14. Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp winner Total Gallery did best of the Europeans in sixth, 1 1/4 lengths behind California Flag.

A gelded 6-year-old son of the Australian stallion Encosta de Lago, Sacred Kingdom had won the six-furlong, Group 1 Krisflyer International Sprint at Kranji in Singapore in May before failing at Royal Ascot when fifth behind Art Connoisseur and Cannonball in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes. He also has won the six-furlong, Group 2 Sprint Cup at Sha Tin this year and stands an excellent chance of being rated the world's highweight sprinter when the year-end World Thoroughbred Rankings are announced in January.