O'Brien's staff have winners on their plates
Aidan O'Brien's Cup hope Bach has been one of the hot tips flying around town this week and the Irish trainer has added fuel to the fire in an unusual way. O'Brien's Ballydoyle stable has enjoyed an unbelievable season with a record 23 Group One victories across Europe and North America and to commemorate the fact the trainer has presented each of his staff with a silver salver.
The memento features all the Group One winners - but also has one empty space. The implication being that the hole is there for Bach, who is the only possible candidate to make it 24 before the end of the year.
Patrick Keating, O'Brien's travelling head lad, said yesterday: 'It was a great present, but we all hope we will have to give it back to have Bach added. It has been a great year and we don't want to be greedy, but hopefully we can have one more Group One winner. The horse is very well and I'm very pleased with him.'
It is nine years since Hong Kong produced its first international-class runner when River Verdon landed the Cup for trainer David Hill. The Australian is having another crack at the 2,000-metre race on Sunday with Peak Power, a three-parts brother to his former dual Horse of the Year, and he does not entirely share the gloomy predictions held out for the local hopes.
Asked about his chances, Hill said yesterday: 'We're going for the win. On paper, maybe we have no chance but racing doesn't work like that. I'm not a big believer in international ratings and our horses only get that sort of rating by lines through Fairy King Prawn, which can be misleading.'
Peak Power was an impressive winner last time over course and distance but is notoriously difficult to train as his body weight is prone to drop dramatically, with the cause difficult to pinpoint. 'It's funny because River Verdon was never a problem and if this fellow had the same constitution he would be one of the best horses in Hong Kong,' Hill added. 'His weight is about the same as last time and he has been going along nicely since his last run. I'm very happy with him.'
It was alright on the night for Wednesday's guest commentators at Happy Valley, but only after a few headaches en route to the track. Former Hong Kong caller Richard Hoiles was to cover the first race at 7.30pm but did not arrive until the last minute after being held up in traffic, along with the other four overseas commentators brought in to add some international flavour to the English broadcast by joining regulars David Raphael and Darren Flindell to call one race each.
'I was starting to get really worried at 7.15pm,' said Nuno Fernandes, telecast manager for the English racing service. 'I knew they were on their way from the hotel on the courtesy bus, but when the traffic snarls up around Happy Valley it can take ages to get into the track. And when they finally got to a point where they could have walked the rest of the way, the police wouldn't let them. David, who was down for the third race, was on standby to take over if Richard hadn't made it in time, but that would have fouled up all my planning. Fortunately, it didn't come to that, but it was a close shave.'
Amidst the river of information flowing from the Jockey Club's email service yesterday about the weekend's 56 International race runners, Hong Kong Gold Cup winner Idol joined the Vase field - albeit briefly.
Vase runner Rainbow And Gold had been coughing earlier in the week and was subject to a vet check, but someone obviously thought he would not be lining up on Sunday. A release from the Club stated that Rainbow And Gold had been scratched earlier in the week and Idol would be taking his place in the race, although the barrier draw sheets at yesterday's official function listed Rainbow And Gold as a confirmed runner.
The gremlins in the works prevailed for an hour or more, sending out comments on Idol's condition and form until Rainbow And Gold's vet pass was confirmed. We don't know but perhaps someone associated with Idol is a computer hacker?