Five runners drafted in to replace QE II Cup no-shows
The Hong Kong Jockey Club yesterday issued a revised field for the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup on April 21 following five defections from the original list of 10 overseas invitees.
The additions to the 2,000 metre event are American challenger With Anticipation and French-trained pair Okawango and Lethals Lady, while the local representation is up to six with the inclusion of Rainbow And Gold and Indigenous.
The withdrawals included Sunline and Shogun Lodge, the one-two from last weekend's Doncaster Handicap in Sydney, along with the British-trained Hawkeye, French filly Terre A Terre and US hope Sarafan. The average rating of the field is now below 115, almost two points lower than the original figure.
The loss especially of 13-time Group One winner Sunline and last year's Hong Kong Cup third place Terre A Terre, who won the Dubai Duty Free last month, is a blow to the Jockey Club. But two of the replacements have won an international Group One race - With Anticipation and Okawango - while both Lethals Lady and Indigenous have finished second at the highest level.
France's representation is up to three, with Okawango and Lethals Lady joining 1999 QE II Cup winner Jim And Tonic among the eight overseas runners. Okawango is trained by Criquette Head-Maarek, for whom Olivier Doleuze is stable jockey, and earned a high-class reputation when taking the Group One Grand Criterium (1,600m) as a two-year-old in 2000.
He failed to build on that promise in a winless campaign last year, although he did finish fourth in both the French 2,000 Guineas (1,600m) and French Derby (2,400m). The son of Kingmambo made an encouraging return to action last Wednesday when he was second in a Group Three mile event in France, with Lethals Lady fifth.
Before that run, Lethals Lady had finished second in the Group Three Singapore Classic (1,800m) last month, beaten 2.25 lengths by local runner Palace Line, while her career-best effort came in the United States last November when she was second in the Grade One Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park. The four-year-old daughter of Rudimentary is trained by Robert Collet, best known for sending out Last Tycoon to win the 1986 Breeders' Cup Mile.
Despite the withdrawal of Sarafan, American interest in the race is maintained by the inclusion of With Anticipation. The seven-year-old grey, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, had been earmarked for the Hong Kong Vase in December before being withdrawn following a disappointing ninth in the Japan Cup. He won two Grade One races in the US last year, including the Man o'War Stakes (2,200m) at Belmont Park in which he defeated last year's QE II Cup winner Silvano by 2.25 lengths.
On the local front, Ivan Allan and Brian Kan Ping-chee will have a multiple representation following the call-ups for Indigenous and Rainbow And Gold. Indigenous, who joins Derby winner Olympic Express and Cheers Hong Kong in the Allan team, will be running in the QE II Cup for the sixth consecutive season, with his record including second behind Jim And Tonic in 1999 and third place last year.
Kan's Centenary Vase winner Rainbow And Gold joins stablemate Industrial Pioneer in the line-up for his first crack at international company.
Besides Jim And Tonic, the other four overseas runners to stand their ground are Japanese pair Agnes Digital and Eishin Preston, Universal Prince from Australia and Godolphin's Grandera.