Bach could swing another classic for O'Brien, says Kinane
The world champion Group One yard of Aidan O'Brien will cap an extraordinary year if Bach emerges from the giant shadows in which he lives to win today's $18 million Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin.
The participation of O'Brien at the meeting had been a Jockey Club imperative this year and, while Bach has not drawn the attention which would have accompanied illustrious stablemate Galileo, his appearance for the all-conquering trainer enhances the Club's push for the International Races to be recognised as the 'turf world championships'.
O'Brien will be absent today due to 'flu but Bach's jockey Michael Kinane was quietly confident yesterday that Ballydoyle could claim its 24th Group One win of the year in the 2,000-metre feature. 'It has been a magical year. Twenty-three is a world record for Aidan, and I've had 18 Group Ones myself, which is the most in Europe, I don't know about anywhere else. It began for me in Hong Kong this year and it would be nice to finish it the same way.'
Kinane's tour of duty here early in 2001 was sparse bar the Hong Kong Gold Cup with Idol, but as the calendar moved on and the heights grew dizzy at Ballydoyle, Kinane feels Bach has been overlooked. 'We had so many very good horses in the yard that a good, mid-level type like him didn't get much notice. He has been up to the mark all year. It was a great Breeders' Cup Mile run to finish third and the 2,000 metres is no concern. You see how he ran in the Eclipse Stakes and Sandown is a tougher 2,000 metres than here.'
Bach was third in the Eclipse after looking the winner 100 metres out, with Tobougg, one of today's opponents, just behind in fourth. Of that rival, Kinane said: 'Tobougg ran best in the English Champion Stakes on his last start but we have beaten him. He was a champion two-year-old and probably took a step back this year. He has still to prove he is in the Fantastic Light class.'
Hawkeye also lines up in the Cup for his first run since being sold out of O'Brien's yard and Kinane is familiar with the colt, who is now trained in England by Michael Jarvis. 'I think a couple of hard runs knocked him a bit, so he didn't perform at his top when he got to 2,000 metres. This looks a hard race for a three-year-old.'
Kinane has been impressed by the Japanese entries for Hong Kong's showpiece and Agnes Digital is high on his list. 'They have generally not been this strong. It's important to remember that they have a climatic advantage. It's the peak of the season there and they don't have to travel far.'
Bach has been on the frequent flier programme at the tail-end of the year but Kinane said the horse was thriving. 'He's as tough as they come. Bucking and kicking in the mornings and content,' he said. 'Just how you like to see them. He is enjoying himself.'