Queensland filly O’Reilly Cyrus has failed to deliver trainer Liam Birchley a third win in the Karaka Million at Ellerslie, finishing seventh behind Xiong Feng.
Birchley won the $1 million race in 2010 with Sister Havana and again last year with Hardline.
O’Reilly Cyrus was always back around midfield on Sunday with the Stephen McKee and Eddie Clipperton-trained Xiong Feng leading from start to finish under Danielle Johnson.
“She over-raced a little and just didn’t finish off that well,” O’Reilly Cyrus’s jockey Damian Browne said.
McKee, who is most famous for training the great Sunline in partnership with his now-retired father Trevor, said he was thrilled to get a win after two previous thirds.
“He’s a big strong horse who drew the right alley,” he told nzracing.co.nz.
“I said to Danielle if she jumped well to not give the lead away too cheaply although I did think he might be going to get run over close to home but he’s a real good horse, a real fighter.
“He’s quite untapped as he just does what he has to.
“He had shown plenty in the wet so I wondered if the better track would bring them back to him a little but in the end he did a good job.
“We’ve run a couple of placings in the race so to finally get a win is a great result.”
Now unbeaten from three starts, Xiong Feng was bought at last year’s Karaka sale by Singapore trainer Z L Mok for a syndicate which includes one of his regular owners Tan Eng Koon.
Syndicate spokesperson Tan Kim Chua Stanley was almost lost for words as he waited for the winner to return to the Ellerslie birdcage.
“We found him at the sales last year and initially thought he might be a late three-year-old but now he’s won us this race,” he said.
“It’s beautiful, just beautiful and I’m pretty speechless really.”
Leading Sydney jockey Blake Shinn rode Caorunn to fourth while Melbourne’s Stephen Baster rode What Choux Want to fifth.