Relief as Lucky gets plum draw for Yasuda Kinen
Lucky Nine's connections were rejoicing after receiving a long-awaited low draw for tomorrow's HK$9.8 million Yasuda Kinen and there were even some positives for fellow Hong Kong raider Glorious Days, despite him being balloted wide.
It isn't often drawing barrier five elicits a mini celebration, but that was the case yesterday when trainer Caspar Fownes' received news Lucky Nine's hideous run of bad barriers had ceased.
'That's a huge relief,' said Fownes, whose horse had drawn widest in the field at his last two starts, yet still finished third in international Group Ones. 'The pressure is off me now and on to him,' he added, pointing at jockey Brett Prebble seated beside him.
Prebble said Lucky Nine had been forced to race wide and out of his comfort zone of late, relying on his toughness and tenacity to stay in touch, but the luxury of some cover would allow the five-year-old to use his brilliant turn of foot and tactical speed.
'He is very adaptable, but with cover he switches off much better,' Prebble said. 'That draw makes my job a lot easier and it makes the horse's job a lot easier. He can just sleep, he can jump and be comfortable. I don't have to push him to a position. He can enjoy his race and show us that wonderful turn of foot at the end.'
Glorious Days drew 14, but statistics show that isn't necessarily a negative, with the gate producing the most winners (four) of any starting stall since 1984.
Trainer John Size was nonplussed about the draw, and it may even help Douglas Whyte execute his plan of staying at least two or three off the fence, on what could be a deteriorating track. With racing at Tokyo today and tomorrow, 11 races will be held on the turf before the Yasuda Kinen and Whyte believes wear and tear could make the fence a no-go zone by tomorrow afternoon.
'With all of those races before and they say there is a bit of rain about, the fence might be pretty cut up,' he said. 'I would be very happy to be running two or three off the rail, which I've done in the past. If he gets to come five or six off the rail in the straight, then he'll get his chance.'
The Tokyo course is a spacious circuit with a healthy cover of grass, but its major idiosyncrasy is a significant uphill gradient in the straight, the track rising two metres from the 400m to the 200m mark.
'It's a long run to the winning post. You don't want to be doing things too quickly turning in,' he said. 'I've ridden this track numerous times and I've found that when you do have to press the button at the top of the straight, they run up like they're going to go away and win the race, but they end up getting found wanting in the last 100m and their run comes to an end.' Prebble won the race in 2006 on Bullish Luck and said the sloping straight 'wasn't for the faint-hearted and is a real test'.
Fownes said he was happy with Lucky Nine's work, admitting his horse had put on more condition than expected during a five-day stop in quarantine.
'He really surprised me on Wednesday. I looked at him and thought he was looking too good, so I gave it to him and then gave it to him again today,' he said. 'He caught me a bit off guard earlier in the week when he had a decent blow, but his recovery was better today. He is ready now.'