French poised for bubbly afternoon

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 December, 1999, 12:00am

Time to put the champagne on ice as the French hit town boasting realistic chances of landing a treble in today's International races.

The Gallic onslaught kicks off in the 1,000-metre Hong Kong Sprint and Sainte Marine looks the prime bet of the day to land the first running of this Listed contest.

Robert Collet's filly possesses blistering pace and everything is set in her favour.

The track, trip and ground conditions are all ideal. Collet, who won the 1986 Breeders' Cup Sprint with Last Tycoon, looks to have his charge in prime condition and she has landed the perfect draw in barrier three.

Add all that up and a dominating win from the front starts to look on the cards.

Sainte Marine's class should not be doubted. She has a couple of fast-time Group Two wins under her belt and has twice run second in the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes at York (1,000 metres).

In this year's renewal she blazed the trail to set up a record-time win for Europe's Champion sprinter Stravinsky. She faces nothing of Stravinsky's class today and, on this far less testing track, the daughter of Kenmare shouldn't be stopping at the death.

Big Jag ran third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (1,200 metres) last month and is an obvious danger from the number two stall.

However, he has yet to race on grass or a straight track, and the trip may also prove on the short side.

Local hopes surely rest with Best Of The Best but my speed figures suggest he is a class or two below the best of the raiders, having clocked figures equivalent to top handicap/listed company in Europe.

Nuclear Debate is a true Group Three horse but his 11 draw is against him, as is the 12 stall for Rudi's Pet. The latter is the one in the field who could take on Sainte Marine for the lead. However, his Goodwood Group Three win was a relatively weak effort on the clock and stablemate Proud Native, who has 1.5 lengths to make up on Sainte Marine from York, looks the best of the Dandy Nicholls-trained pair.

The Group One Hong Kong Cup can also fall into French hands with Jim And Tonic. In the Breeders' Cup, Francois Doumen's globe-trotter didn't get any sort of run round the ultra-tight turns of Gulfstream Park, but as ever he comes here in the peak of condition and his Sha Tin credentials are there for all to see.

New Zealand-raider Sunline has to be respected but her outside draw may force her into doing too much work in the early stages.

Given a strong pace, a greater threat may come from Lear Spear. The David Elsworth-trained galloper thrives off a hectic gallop and will be making a late move. In short, he has the figures on the board to play a leading role if avoiding trouble in running.

The Godolphin team are represented by Kabool and he has reportedly pleased connections in his preparation, although strictly on the figures he faces a stiff task.

Indeed, Simon Crisford, racing manager of the powerful Dubai operation, rates Muhtathir in the Group Two Hong Kong Mile as their best chance of success.

Muhtathir is in peak condition on the back of a Group One win in Milan and he has to be respected. But, that was a weak affair for the grade and there could be some outstanding value siding with Field Of Hope to land the second leg of a possible French treble. He displayed a good turn of foot to land the Group One Prix De La Foret (1,400 metres) at Longchamp in October and won't be inconvenienced by a return to a mile.

Docksider will enjoy the ground conditions and comes off a big run in the Breeders' Cup. Wallace may find too much trouble but has a sharp turn of foot and should be kept safe for the exotics, as should Midnight Bet.

It's difficult to get too excited about any of the European horses in the Hong Kong Vase. Silver Patriarch may not get the out-and-out test of stamina he now requires, while Borgia has had a very hard preparation and Sea Wave hasn't recaptured his three-year-old form.

This could be one for the home contingent. Most will side with Indigenous but he is a prime candidate to bounce after his outstanding effort in the Japan Cup and Monza should offer value in the pools.