Scene set for big-race specialist Dittman
LEGENDARY Australian rider Mick Dittman has nothing left to prove in the world of racing but success in today's $4 million International Bowl at Sha Tin would surely prove sweet.
Dittman has ridden on numerous occasions in Hong Kong and invariably with the success that has been his trademark on racetracks throughout Australasia and, indeed, America.
His bid to ride permanently in Hong Kong was thwarted last season and he now restricts himself to some of the biggest and best race meetings and carnivals in Australia. And, naturally, the winners keep flowing in.
There's a lot of confidence that Capestad, Dittman's Bowl mount, will lift the trophy for Australia and trainer Gary Stewart who knows all about winning big races in Hong Kong. He did snare the Cup a few years back with the brilliant Kiwi mare, Grey Invader.
Toughest for Capestad to beat could be the John Hammond-trained Voleris who will be ridden by Cash Asmussen.
This is probably not his ideal trip but he has been freshened up for the race and has solid overall form - plus Asmussen, who has been carrying all before him in France for years.
Hong Kong's hopes are pinned on the Mick Kinane-ridden Winning Partners.
Neville Begg moved quickly to engage the big race specialist when Darren Beadman was disqualified and it is a pairing that makes plenty of appeal. The imponderable here is: just how good and how ready is Winning Partners? He has won four of his five starts and that should have been five out of five. Winning Partners' last effort was noteworthy in that he was clearly going to come on from it and the Bowl was his prime target.
In the past he has dug fairly deep on two occasions to find what was required and it is not unreasonable to suggest he will be in the frame today.
The John Moore-trained Fastabob is very close to Winning Partners by taking a line through the standby declared starter, Mount Hansen.
The choice of Fastabob is a wise one as he has big race experience behind him in Australia but is fit and fresh here this season and should give a decent account of himself.
His work has certainly been pleasing and the trip is ideal.
John Reid partners Swing Low and was at pains to point out that the rather scratchy manner in which he works should not be held against the four-year-old, Richard Hannon-trained colt.
Popular Irish-American Declan Murphy returns to his old stamping ground from Macau to ride Fourstardave but it looks a formidable assignment.
Fourstardave is a full brother to the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner, Fourstars Allstar, but he has had a strenuous American campaign and was brought late into this field.
Sound Print goes into the race under a slight cloud but at his best would be tough enough over this 1,400-metre trip which is arguably his best. And Brian Kan's other runner, Happy Guy, has good recent form and looks an improver.
Frankie Dettori rides Marina Park and the filly could well show up. She is better known over six furlongs than seven but, as the likable Italian-born star pointed out earlier this week, the bends at Sha Tin will suit her.
There are suggestions that the Japanese runner, Tomoe Regent, is useful and that the country's entries in both Races are a definite cut above what we saw last year.
But the devastatingly effective Dittman could be the man who really matters in the International Bowl today.