Kinane to partner Pataca in Gold Cup
Michael Kinane has been engaged to replace Christophe Soumillon on Viva Pataca in Sunday's HK$8 million Hong Kong Gold Cup at Sha Tin.
Soumillon and trainer John Moore concluded their retained jockey agreement last week, a decision that was ratified by the Jockey Club's licensing committee on Monday.
Although Soumillon has said he will return to ride Viva Macau in the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby on March 18, it was rather surprising that the brilliant Belgian did not want to link up with last year's Derby hero in the Gold Cup, especially in such a suitable race over the Derby course and distance.
Kinane is no stranger to Viva Pataca. The 14-time champion jockey of Ireland has had one ride on the Marju gelding for a brilliant win in last year's Group One Champions & Chater Cup, when he hailed him as Hong Kong's next champion horse.
However, Viva Pataca has been winless in four starts this term, although his latest run was an encouraging third to Armada and Hello Pretty in the Group One Stewards' Cup at 1,600m - a distance on the short side of optimum for the gelding. The Gold Cup will be a critical performance for Viva Pataca because Moore wants the gelding to perform well to be invited to Dubai for the US$5 million Sheema Classic (2,400m) on the World Cup undercard on March 31.
One of his rivals on Sunday, Vengeance Of Rain, has already been invited to Dubai and how Viva Pataca lines up against the 2005 World Racing Champion will give the Dubai officials a perfect opportunity to assess him.
Hello Pretty, to be ridden by Gerald Mosse, will also be running for a Dubai invitation. Trainer Tony Cruz wants Hello Pretty to take on the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free (Gr 1, 1,777m) on turf, the other feature event on the world's richest night of racing.
Brett Prebble has been confirmed as the rider of Bullish Luck as the reigning Asian Mile Challenge titleholder attempts a second win in the race. Bullish Luck won the Gold Cup in a storming last-to-first performance in 2004 beating Elegant Fashion.
Meanwhile, Andrasch Starke has been given permission to go to Dubai to ride Quijano for trainer Peter Schiergen on tomorrow night's 'Super Thursday' programme at Nad al Sheba. Starke will return to Hong Kong on Friday, and will therefore not miss a domestic meeting.