Allan hopes for best of both worlds this year
When big races come around, wise punters look to the yard of the training genius of Ivan Allan. But in the case of this afternoon's $2 million National Day Cup at Sha Tin, the maestro himself is looking cautiously at factors outside his normal field of vision.
Allan has won the National Day Cup in each of the past two years. In 2001, he captured it with the magnificent Fairy King Prawn, who then broke down and never saw a racetrack again other than for his farewell ceremony.
Last year, Allan did it again with Jeune King Prawn. And would you believe, the 'curse' struck again, with Jeune King Prawn breaking down and being forced into retirement as a last-start winner.
Allan is three-handed in today's edition with emerging top miler Ho Choi (Craig Williams), Classic Mile hero Self Flit (Weichong Marwing) and Singapore Classic winner Come See You (Jimmy Quinn).
'If the same sort of misfortune was waiting for the winner again this year, I'd rather not win it,' Allan mused last night. 'It was tragic that we didn't see Fairy King Prawn again after he won so well in 2001. In the case of Jeune King Prawn, he was always a very fragile horse and the effort he put into winning just proved a bit much for him.
'Hopefully this year I can have the best of both worlds - winning the race and having the horse able to go on with it.'
Allan made no effort to disguise his clear preference is for Self Flit, who raced so admirably last season, taking the Classic Mile under Eddie Lai before making a valiant attempt to lead throughout in the Hong Kong Derby, with only the superior stamina of Elegant Fashion proving his master.
'The key thing is Self Flit has had a race this time in [when 10th to Cheerful Fortune in the Chief Executive's Cup on August 31],' Allan explained. 'And I do think he's improved a good deal since that race. Ho Choi hasn't raced since June. And while I'm sure he'll run well, as class horses like him always do, he'll be all the better with this run under his belt.'
Trackwatchers will have drawn a similar conclusion after watching the Allan pair work together over a sharp half mile on two occasions during the past week. Self Flit seemed to have it all over Ho Choi in the gallops, while registering a brisk 22.6 seconds for the final 400 metres.
David Hayes has poured work into Elegant Fashion, who won first-up at a big price over the course and distance at her Hong Kong debut last season. The chestnut mare made good ground when second in a 1,200 metres barrier trial 12 days ago and she's been further improved by solid gallops on the all-weather track over the past week under Gerald Mosse's guidance. Self Flit has the weights in his favour from their Derby meeting, too. He was 11/2 lengths astern of the wonder mare in the Derby, but has an advantage of five pounds under the handicap conditions of today's event.
The National Day Cup is a Premier class event and is Hong Kong's first feature race of the new season. It has attracted a top field, with Chairman's Sprint Prize runner-up Cape Of Good Hope (Douglas Whyte) heading the weights with 132 pounds. The pace looks like being strong, with natural leaders Citizen Kane and Prime Witness engaged.