The Irish trained trio of Sole Power, Gordon Lord Byron and Parish Hall failed to get on the scoreboard at Sha Tin Racecourse yesterday but Tom Hogan was immensely proud of his stable star who, for the third year running, finished fourth at the lucrative Hong Kong International Meeting.
Gordon Lord Byron was this year redirected by Hogan who opted for the Hong Kong Sprint over six-furlongs rather than the Mile and the six-year-old ran a typically consistent race when finishing fourth and taking home over €100,000 for his troubles.
Ireland's newly crowned Horse of the Year failed to repeat his efforts of finishing second in the race last year and had to settle for ninth under Richard Hughes for Eddie Lynam after a lengthy but memorable season and his rider reported; "he was never going at any stage."
Speaking after the race Hogan told the Herald: "You'd have to be proud of him. He ran a brilliant race and battled all the way to the line.
"He probably didn't just have the gears to go through the gap turning in and after that there was just nowhere to go.
"I suppose if they made a seven-furlong race here it would be right up his alley."
The winner of the Longines Hong Kong Sprint was Aerovelocity, who in coming home in front was recording a seventh course and distance success and remains on the upward curve. Hogan will now take time to decide where Gordon Lord Byron will run next.
Yesterday's race was the 10th of this calendar year, his second at Sha Tin having run there back in May and it was the seventh time he was in the first four across five different countries and three continents in 2014 alone.
"Wayne gave the horse a great ride and everything went well but those local horses are fairly good.
"We'll get him back and let him have his Christmas dinner at home and we'll decide where we go then. He runs his race every day, day in and day out and he's as brave as a lion."
Jockey Wayne Lordan admitted that the field steadying up at the half way stage didn't help Gordon Lord Byron at a vital time in the race.
"They just steadied going around the final bend and when they kicked off it they got a length on me and he was just a bit flat-footed and he just stayed on then again," Lordan told the Herald.
"He ran his usual genuine race and he's a grand horse."
There was plenty of other Irish interest at the meeting with familiar names like Ebanoran and Lines Of Battle now based in Hong Kong contesting the final race of the card but the feature Hong Kong Cup went the way of Designs On Rome, the former Pat Flynn trained four-year-old who finished second behind Dawn Approach as a two-year-old for the Waterford trainer.
Now looked after by leading Hong Kong trainer John Moore, Designs On Rome was this year crowned Horse of the Year in Hong Kong and needed every ounce of Joao Moreira's magic to deny another Irish bred and last year's Horse of the Year Military Attack in a thrilling finish.
The odds on favourite was settled in the rear of the field by Moreira and despite coming wide after the turn in still had enough in reserve to get up on the line and provide the trainer/jockey combination with a Group One double on the card as they also won the Hong Kong Mile with Able Friend, the most emphatic winner of the day and the horse Moreira, who has ridden big race winners all over the world, described as the best he has ever rode.
A clearly relieved Moore said of Designs On Rome: "Joao has done a great job in getting to know this horse. You've got to stoke him up and produce him right at the right time."
Dubai is on Moore's agenda for Able Friend, who certainly wouldn't be out of place in some of the best mile races in Europe including Royal Ascot. And although he'll run in Hong Kong next, he'll certainly be an exciting addition to Dubai should the trainer convince his owner.
The Longines Hong Kong Mile will be remembered for the scintillating performance of Able Friend but it also looked extremely likely that it was going to mark the retirement of former champion jockey Jamie Spencer who finished seventh on the David Simcock trained Trade Storm.
Spencer said after the race; "It looks like that's my last ride." However, in a dramatic twist, a statement released by Spencer shortly before he boarded his flight home to England yesterday evening revealed that the 34-year-old would continue as a freelance jockey next year.
Spencer said; "Sheikh Fahad and Qatar Racing offered me a wonderful opportunity to become part of their management team but, after much reflection, I have decided that at this stage in my life I am not going to accept it. I have discussed at length with Sheikh Fahad my decision to carry on riding and he fully understands and supports me. He appreciates that riding is what makes me happy and the last thing he wants to do is stand in the way of that."
Spencer shocked the racing world by announcing his retirement from race riding earlier this year and revealed he would be riding as a "primarily as a freelance" in 2015.
The statement continued; "I will be riding primarily as a freelance, but obviously I have certain existing links and relationships with trainers that I will be utilising. I am also looking forward to being entirely free and available for the first time in six seasons and developing new associations. I have no specific targets other than to continue to be successful."