Vengeance throws down the gauntlet
Champion Vengeance Of Rain was simply outstanding in a turf barrier trial at Sha Tin yesterday, recording the fastest turf trial in memory as he raced past Group winner Sir Ernesto in what will be a firm foundation for the defence of his Dubai Sheema Classic title.
Vengeance Of Rain, handled by his regular partner Anthony Delpech, may have got a better workout than either his jockey or trainer David Ferraris thought possible, as a breakneck speed by the Paul O'Sullivan-trained Upside Of Anger made this trial more like a race.
Upside Of Anger (Glen Boss) went through the first 1,000m in 58.5 seconds but was ready to wave the white flag after straightening, having put the opening 1,200m behind him in 1min 11.5 seconds.
That was when the class and stamina of Vengeance Of Rain came into play. Delpech had ridden him quietly, back in the field, but took him into the clear and asked the New Zealand-bred gelding to let down.
He did so instantly and magnificently, running home all over the top of the Derek Cruz-trained Sir Ernesto to win by two lengths.
Ultimately, Vengeance stopped the clock for the 1,600m at 1:34.9, a time that has been independently confirmed. The leader-to-winner split for the final 400m was 23.3 seconds, and with Vengeance Of Rain giving Upside Of Anger some eight lengths at that point, the champion has run close to 22.0 seconds for his personal final split.
Vengeance Of Rain has not raced since finishing sixth of seven runners behind Ramonti and Viva Pataca in the Group One Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) at Sha Tin on December 9.
He raced very flat in that race, and in the post mortem connections basically conceded that he had run out of time to be fully prepared for such a demanding international encounter, having had just one lead-up race.
With that disappointment behind them, the Chow family that owns Hong Kong's Horse of the Year for 2007, along with Ferraris and Delpech, have collectively put their heads down and committed to ensuring he is fully wound up for his early 2008 engagements, the first of which will be the Group One City Stewards' Cup over 1,600m at Sha Tin on January 20.
After that, Vengeance will attempt to replicate his 2007 Hong Kong Gold Cup triumph over Viva Pataca. That will ensure he gets an invitation to Dubai where he will once again attempt to defeat the world's best over 2,400m under nocturnal desert skies in Dubai.
Vengeance Of Rain's arch rival Viva Pataca also trialled yesterday, over the unsuitable distance of 1,000m. It was surprising to see the champion pull very hard in a trial at the minimum journey and jockey Darren Beadman never let him off the bridle, with the four-time Group One winner eventually tugging his way into fourth place when the judge called it over.
Like Vengeance Of Rain, Viva Pataca also holds an entry for the Stewards' Cup, in which he ran third to Armada last year.