'It's the race he has been aimed at and he will be fit enough to win'
Local hopes for Sunday's International meeting received a major boost yesterday when the Tony Cruz-trained King Of Danes was cleared to run in the Hong Kong Sprint following a serious workout.
All runners in Sunday's multi-million-dollar events will undergo official veterinary checks today but King Of Danes and Hong Kong Vase outsider Rainbow And Gold were inspected yesterday as part of an ongoing watch on their condition and both were given the all-clear.
King Of Danes had been under a cloud after developing a swelling on his off stifle and Cruz was relieved to see last year's Sprint third come through his crucial tests after working strongly down the Riverside under big-race jockey Felix Coetzee. 'I was very happy with his work this morning,' Cruz said. 'The vet has been over him and he has been passed. I don't really think it has affected his preparation. It's the race he has been aimed at and he will be fit enough to win.'
Rainbow And Gold, who had been coughing earlier in the week and was widely expected to be withdrawn, has improved rapidly and was also given the go-ahead for Sunday. A clean endoscopic examination yesterday revealed very little mucus in his windpipe and no reappearance of the cough after working.
Ivan Allan, as usual, will be strongly represented in the big races and yesterday he highlighted grand old stayer Indigenous in the Vase as his best chance, despite the gelding's slow recovery from the Japan Cup trip. 'I couldn't be confident, but if one of mine happens to run well that will be a big plus,' he said. 'Indigenous is back in his own stable now and it is obvious he has paid the price of having to be quarantined. But he is on the way back to himself and we still have a couple of days to the race. I think he will be right on the day but it is a tough field. He ran so well in Tokyo that it would be hard to say he does not have a chance.'
Allan said his Sprint runners, Cliffhanger and Plenty-Plenty, would need some luck but warned against underestimating them. 'Cliffhanger is working very well. I was hoping for a draw near the inside but he has drawn where the speed will be quite strong. Still it is not too bad,' he said. 'Plenty-Plenty is not getting any younger, but it is an honour to be invited and it would be nice if he could pick up a cheque.'
Both Allan and owner Larry Yung Chi-kin refused to commit on whether Oriental Express would be having his final run in the Vase, preferring to see how he performs. 'Oriental Express might be having his last race, but if he does well, then maybe he won't,' Allan said. 'Early this season, he was too fresh in his races, but now that freshness is out of him and his last runs have been OK. He is quite relaxed now and ready to run a good 2,400 metres, which is the distance he needs these days to perform well.
'As for Mr Yung's other horse, Housemaster is not out of place in the Cup, but he has been hard to train and I am worried we have run out of time with him.'
David Hayes was delighted with his draws across all four races, especially the Sprint and Mile, and is optimistic he can provide a Hong Kong-based winner. 'Super Molly needed a good draw and it couldn't be better,' he said. 'I don't want him to lead, but from two Damien Oliver can have him close and he won't have to work. All Thrills Too will get a great sit off the speed from six in the Sprint and he just continues to improve, so there is no telling what he might do. Sometimes barriers don't matter as much in the longer races, but Helene Vitality will relax beautifully in five for the Vase and this is the distance he is looking for. I couldn't be happier.'
Derek Cruz's Solid Contact surprised a few observers with his Sprint Trial Trophy second to All Thrills Too but, on paper, he should reverse form as he meets that rival much better at the weight conditions on Sunday. 'Even though he had not done so well down the straight before the Sprint Trial, he had not been failing,' Cruz said. 'He has run well without being placed, so I am not concerned about that. His work has been good, Robbie Fradd is very pleased with him and I think he will hold his form. I didn't want to draw out in 14, and seven is not bad.'