SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Hong Kong stayer Dan Excel won Sunday's S$3 million (1.45 million pounds) Singapore Airlines International Cup, becoming the first horse to win Southeast Asia's richest race in successive years.
Patiently ridden by Australian jockey Tommy Berry, the evergreen seven-year-old charged to the front from the second widest barrier then held off his rivals in the straight to win the 2,000 metre Group One race at a floodlit Kranji racecourse.
Military Attack, the 2013 winner, boxed on to finish second, half a length behind the winner, while the locally-trained Quechua charged home for third, just ahead of Japanese raider Meiner Frost.
Berry was an emotional wreck when he won the race last year, just a month after his twin brother and jockey Nathan died after contracting a virus, and the 24-year-old once again pointed to the heavens as he brought his mount back to the winner's stall.
"I think about Nathan every day, he's just a part of our everyday life," Berry said.
"I've tried not to change too much but I think I've gone to a new level...and he's hopefully riding with me, which I believe he is."
For Dan Excel's Australian-born trainer John Moore, it was his third successive win in the race, which attracted top runners from Asia and Europe, but his most satisfying.
Moore had grand hopes for his gelding after he won last year's race and sent him to Melbourne for a crack at Australia's biggest race but he developed a throat infection which had to be operated on.
"To get him back after surgery and all that, it's a dream come true," said Moore.
The Hong Kong-trained Aerovelocity won the S$1 million International Sprint, the fourth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, held before the Cup.
Ridden by Australian jockey Zac Purton, the odds-on favourite showed his rivals a clean pair of heels over the 1200m dash, leading all the way to win by a length and a half and just.
Last year's runner-up Emperor Max finished second with Lucky Nine, the winner each of the past two years, flashed home for third.
It was the six-year-old Aerovelocity's second win in the series after he took out the Takamatsunomiya Kinen in Japan in March and set up the gelding for a possible $1 million bonus if he can win one of the remaining six legs.
"He's been super a horse to me, you don't ride too many horses of the calibre of this guy, Purton said.
"He gives 100 per cent every time he races. He tries his guts out, he's the most courageous horse I've ever ridden."
($1 = 1.32 Singapore dollars)
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)