El Cid to slay the Unicorn

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 December, 2001, 12:00am

While the Hong Kong Cup is the biggest prize on the International card, there is no doubt that the $14 million Hong Kong Mile is the sentimental favourite event amongst the locals, particularly after last season when the clash between Fairy King Prawn and Sunline drew all the attention.

This year, it is Electronic Unicorn who leads the home defence in the absence of Fairy King Prawn. John Size has his star recruit going very well and the five-year-old is undefeated in two starts under his care and putting together performances reminiscent of Fairy King Prawn at his best.

Having said that, the home favourite faces an extremely tough task and the one to beat is the Japanese champion miler Zenno El Cid. The talented son of Caerleon is a front-running type who gained victory on his last start in the Group One Mile Championship at Kyoto. He will have the services of one of the world's best riders in Olivier Peslier and appears to have arrived here in terrific order judging on his work.

Fellow Japanese entry Eishin Preston was a fast-finishing second to Zenno El Cid in the Mile Championship and based on that effort has to be considered a winning chance. The well-travelled German raider Proudwings also has strong claims based on a string of sound performances this year. She won her last start in Japan before arriving in Hong Kong and certainly has the ability to win this event.

American representative Forbidden Apple will be many people's idea of the winner following his fine second to Val Royal in the Breeders' Cup Mile, while his fine fourth to Fantastic Light in the Cup last year showed he has a distinct liking for Sha Tin. He is the highest-rated runner in the event and will be hard to beat.

The aptly-named China Visit, one of the Godolphin trio lining up for this year's International races, has a little to find on form and would prefer softer going. He has been beaten this year by rivals Tough Speed and Mount Abu and has not been overly impressive in his work leading up to this event. Tough Speed is trained by Sir Michael Stoute and, while he will be facing his stiffest test to date, his astute trainer knows what it takes to win such events and he should be kept safe. Mount Abu is an unknown quantity over a mile as this will be his first test over the trip. The son of Foxhound won the Group One Prix de la Foret over 1,400 metres at Longchamp on his last start, beating China Visit by two lengths.

Australian representatives Shogun Lodge and Show A Heart look up against it for different reasons. While Shogun Lodge has had a better preparation this year and is probably entered for a more suitable trip, he did fail in the Cup last year, which is a cause for concern. Show A Heart would arguably prefer some cut in the ground, which is highly unlikely today, and he is hard to recommend.

Of the other Hong Kong representatives, Red Pepper simply does not have the class to win such an event and can be ruled out, while Red Sun is a consistent sort on the local scene but is likely to be found out in this testing event. David Hayes is double-handed with Charming City and Super Molly, neither of whom make any appeal, but the former is likely to give a better account based on his superior rating.

Graphic: S1600grc