Pataca plans up in the air
With invitations to the Cathay Pacific international races to be announced tomorrow night, Viva Pataca's owner Stanley Ho Hung-sun remains undecided - publicly at least - whether his champion is a Cup or Vase candidate.
The HK$20 million Hong Cup is run over 2,000 metres, while the Vase is at 2,400m and trainer John Moore said last night it really didn't matter which way the owner ultimately called it.
'Viva Pataca is in brilliant order and it doesn't really matter whether Dr Ho wants to run him at 2,000 metres or 2,400 metres,' Moore said.
'I know he'll be fit and ready, and we saw last season that he was equally brilliant at either distance.
'Dr Ho has been busy with a lot of business commitments, including the Macau Grand Prix last weekend, and I hope to be speaking with him about the race decision and the jockey situation in the next 24 hours.'
The 'jockey situation' Moore referred to was whether Darren Beadman stays on the four-time Group One winner or Irish champ Mick Kinane is used for the big day.
Kinane has ridden Viva Pataca to three feature race wins - the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in April and the last two editions of the Champions & Chater Cup - while Beadman brilliantly handled him in the International Cup Trial on November 11.
Jockey Club international racing manager Mark Player said last night that top European three-year-old Excellent Art, trained by Aidan O'Brien, was confirmed for the HK$16 million Hong Kong Mile.
'Excellent Art was very unlucky in the Breeders' Cup Mile at his last start,' Player said. 'Not only did he strike a very wet track, but he drew an impossible barrier at Monmouth Park. At least I can promise he won't have the same problems here - the mile course at Sha Tin would be as fair as any start, anywhere.'
When announcements are made at 6.15pm tomorrow, Player revealed there would be some quality Japanese contenders despite the loss of the Kyoto Mile Championship contenders from Sunday due to quarantine protocols.
'We have to thank the people at [Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department] for their hard work and co-operation,' Player said. 'It has been a difficult year, with the equine influenza considerations, but it's fantastic that we will be able to announce some quality Japanese contenders.'
Meanwhile, sources in France confirmed that trainer Freddie Head was poised to accept an invitation to tackle the HK$12 million Hong Kong Sprint with multiple Group One winner Marchand d'Or.