A heroic underdog is always remembered, and Salouen produced an epic front running performance at odds of 33/1 to only be edged out by Cracksman in the final strides. His trainer Sylvester Kirk summed it up, saying: “I thought he was home and hosed. I don’t usually count my chickens, but a furlong out I’d thought he’d win”.
The four-year-old by Canford Cliffs hasn’t won all this season, but it hasn’t prevented him from producing big efforts in all the right races. He was sent to Saint Cloud following Epsom heartbreak and chased home the leading French middle-distance horse Waldgeist who he will reoppose in the Vase on Sunday. Again, Kirk was hopeful about his chances in a big race and gave him an entry in the King George Stakes at Ascot, where he was beaten a long way by Poet’s Word after taking a keen hold in the early stages.
Reassessment was needed, and the decision was made to give Salouen a chance to get a win on the board in the G2 Grand Prix de Deauville, which is often used as a prep race for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. He finished third behind Loxley, consistent but unable to get his nose in front.
It was therefore no surprise to see Salouen start 80/1 for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and to him win would have needed a major form reversal with many of the top contenders. And yet, despite this, he ran another big race finishing sixth behind Enable despite not having a clear run in the closing stages.
It was also the first-time ‘hot-shot’ jockey Oisin Murphy had ridden him, and he was impressed with what he found. It was from there the idea for Hong Kong was born and Sylvester Kirk said: “It was about five seconds after Oisin got off Salouen following the Arc that he suggested Hong Kong was the direction we should be heading towards.”
Oisin Murphy has established himself as a rising star in the flat racing world and has been privileged enough to ride some of the best this season. He’s chased Winx home in the Cox Plate aboard Benbatl, guided Roaring Lion to victory in the G1 QEII at Ascot and landed the G1 Sprint Cup at Haydock with The Tin Man. Salouen couldn’t hope for a better jockey, and Murphy looks to have a willing partner.