A horse who has endured a career threatening injury and who appeared to have reached his peak three years ago has turned in the best performance by an Australian-trained galloper in Hong Kong in a decade.
Alcopop, an eight-year-old who started favourite in the 2009 Melbourne Cup and whose career has been punctuated by a variety of problems, finished third in the Chinese territory's biggest race, the Group One Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
On a day when one of Australia's best sprinters, Sea Siren, failed badly in the Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), Alcopop bravely ran past all but two of his highly-vaunted rivals beaten, only by the local champion California Memory and the French filly Giofra.
Jockey Craig Williams told connections they had a horse to be proud of after the $HK22 million race.
The riding input, however, was unnecessary.
"We've known for a long time he's a very good and very brave horse," part-owner John Kelton said.
Alcopop proved to be the form staying horse of the Melbourne spring, finishing second in both the Caulfield Stakes and Caulfield Cup and then winning the Mackinnon Stakes, beating Cox Plate champion Ocean Park.
In the 10 years since Queensland sprinter Falvelon followed his wins in the 2000 and 2001 Hong Kong Sprint with a third in the same race in 2002, no Australian horse - including such stars as Fields Of Omagh, Miss Andretti and Grand Armee has been placed at the meeting billed as the Turf World Championships.
But Alcopop showed how far honesty and courage can take a horse trained in less-than-fashionable circumstance in the hills around the South Australian town of Victor Harbour.
A slightly over-awed trainer Jake Stephens produced Alcopop in perfect order for a race in which he was a $17 chance on the local tote.
"I can't believe how well everything's gone," Stephens said.
"He's been a perfect traveller, better than plenty of others from what I've seen.
"The thing about him is that he is a racehorse, he's got some ability and he uses it all."
Alcopop will return to Australia next week and stay in quarantine at Werribee until the new year and won't be seen on a racetrack until early spring.
For Sea Siren's trainer John O'Shea, the international meeting has been put down to experience after Sea Siren's ninth placing in the Sprint behind Japan's Lord Kanaloa.
O'Shea said the mare had probably lost her chance at the start where jockey Jim Cassidy said she received a severe bump.
Cassidy then rode her had to find a forward position that she struggled to maintain.
"She's never run like that in her life," O'Shea said.
"Jimmy said she took fright when he had to ride her so hard after the start and after she got bumped.
"It's very disappointing, but it's not her real form."
Also on the International program, former Queenslander Zac Purton won the Group One Hong Kong Mile (1600m) on Ambitious Dragon while the 2010 Melbourne Cup runner-up Red Cadeaux scored a well-deserved win in the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2400m).