Ascot star Rakti joins galaxy of talent for international meet
Recent Ascot Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner Rakti heads a galaxy of international thoroughbred talent that has been committed to Hong Kong's international race meeting on December 12.
The Jockey Club's senior handicapper and head of international race planning, Ciaran Kennelly, said last night that trainer Michael Jarvis had given a strong commitment to return to Sha Tin, where Rakti ran so bravely for second to champion Falbrav in last year's $18 million Hong Kong Cup.
'The only difference is that, this year, Rakti is being set for the Mile,' Kennelly revealed after the Sha Tin races.
'He tackled a mile for the first time in the QE-II at Ascot and got a brilliant result, so that's the way they are headed.'
Diminutive French mare Vallee Enchantee, who belied her size with a grand performance to win the $14 million Hong Kong Vase last year, will be back to defend her title.
In fact, two of the three Vase placegetters will be back because that fearless traveller Clive Brittain is almost certain to be here again with Warrsan (third last year).
Warrsan has had a wonderful campaign in Europe this year, winning the Group One Coronation Cup at Epsom in June and the Group One Grosser Preis von Baden in Germany last month.
'Vallee Enchantee ran a great race in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris last Sunday,' Kennelly continued.
'She was the first older horse home, as all the placegetters were three-year-olds.'
Yorkshire (UK) trainer Mark Johnston has declared his intention to bring Lucky Story, the second most highly rated horse among the entries, with an international rating of 123.
Lucky Story has been entered for both the Mile and the Cup.
Europe may have its strongest hand yet in the Hong Kong Sprint, where the mighty Silent Witness threatens to frighten away any but the most stout-hearted. The Japanese Racing Association has confirmed that trainer Hiroyuki Oneda wants to run last weekend's Sprinters Stakes winner, Calstone Light O and Brittain has set his brilliant young speed demon Var for the race over the minimum journey.
Var began his career in America but was bought by Arab owner Mohammed Rashid to campaign in Europe, where he gave Europe's best a dust-up in the Prix de lAbbaye (1,000 metre) at Longchamps on October 3.
'Often, the European sprinters get here at the end of a long season and some of them are tired,' Kennelly said.
'Var has had only three runs for the season, he's a last-start Group winner of the Abbaye and the race was decided on decent ground, so he's an exciting entry for the sprint.
'Jim Bolger, from Ireland, also has a smart sprinter called Alexander Goldrun [rated 116] and he's keen to run,' he added.
Another global traveller with an emerging reputation is German galloper Epalo, who was bought by Rakti's owner Gary Tanaka as his next big international contender.
Epalo, trained by Andreas Schutz, won the S$3 million Singapore Airlines International Cup (2,000 metres) at Kranji in March, by five lengths, and will be ideally suited by the conditions and distance of the Hong Kong Cup.
He has an international rating of 118 but it may be understated, as the Singapore race was one of the few chances the handicappers have had to assess him out of Germany.
Australia's best galloper at the present time, Starcraft, has been listed as a 'probable' by Kennelly, but it's unclear whether his defeat in yesterday's Group One Yalumba Stakes (2,000 metres) at Caulfield in Melbourne may result in an amended agenda.
'The entry is high class and has great depth, and we'll be working hard in the coming weeks to make sure we get as many of these top horses here as we possibly can,' Kennelly said.