Emotions run wild in search for happy endings
Japanese trainer Yasuo Ikee is hoping for a happy ending with his distinguished Stay Gold as he leaves the racing stage after today's Hong Kong Vase, but the manifold wash of emotions in the 2,400-metre race must be even stronger for Hong Kong's Ivan Allan.
Stay Gold will retire today, best remembered as the horse who conquered Fantastic Light at a time when few others could. Allan's rising nine-year-old Oriental Express was due for retirement last May but his tough Champions & Chater Cup victory brought a change of heart and he was returned to racing for today's event.
In the fanfare of International week, the marvellous grey has been lost in the milling foreign stars, but his longevity and worthiness at the highest level deserves a salute whatever his fate this afternoon. In contrast to Stay Gold's firm finale, owner Larry Yung Chi-kin and Allan were still unsure whether this will be a quiet ending, or a happy continuation for the horse the trainer declared his favourite. A win and he may race on. If not, Oriental Express will head to the lush pastures of the English property where Yung's horses hang up their racing plates.
Allan's other evergreen, Indigenous, who raced so bravely in the Japan Cup, will fly the Hong Kong flag as probably the best horse in the world not to win a race in the past two years.
Hong Kong's chances also lie with the younger David Hayes-trained stayer Helene Vitality, but the obstacles are many, including the former 'local' Daliapour seeking consecutive victories in the race.
Following his Vase win in 2000, Daliapour was trained by Allan in Hong Kong but the trainer eventually admitted the place did not suit the horse.
He advised owner Robert Ng Chee-siong that his sizeable investment would be best fostered by returning him to his previous trainer, Sir Michael Stoute, and Daliapour has since shown a glimpse of his old form with a good run in Canada.
We can only hope for the sake of Allan's torn emotions that Daliapour does not prevail over Oriental Express and Indigenous in the tierce.