Absolute Champion given green light for Sacred rematch
Sprinter recovers from bruised heel and passed fit for the Sprint Cup
Absolute Champion has been under an injury cloud for most of the past week but emerged with a clean bill of health after a crucial gallop under Brett Prebble and is ready for his rematch with superstar Sacred Kingdom.
The world's leading sprinter of 2006 is scheduled for a third clash with the horse who stole his title last month in the HK$4.5 million Centenary Sprint Cup - opening leg of the triple crown - over 1,000 metres at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Trainer David Hall said yesterday the gelding had developed some soreness in his left front leg last weekend and consequently missed a planned gallop on Monday.
'It was a bruised heel, nothing too major,' Hall said. 'We gave him a change of shoe and did everything we could to get him 100 per cent.'
The moment of truth arrived on Wednesday morning when Hall asked jockey Brett Prebble to work Absolute Champion, and at the end of it Prebble had no hesitation in giving the green light.
'Brett said he felt great, and he was completely happy with him,' Hall said. 'He'll just have a steady, final breeze over 400 metres in 28 or 29 seconds and that will be it.'
Hall stressed the missed gallop was of no consequence as far as Absolute Champion's Sunday mission is concerned.
'He's not a horse that requires a lot of work anyway, and this race is only over 1,000 metres, so freshness is probably more vital than fitness on this occasion. Missing that one gallop was neither here nor there.'
Stipendiary stewards issued an alert to the betting public yesterday, stating Absolute Champion had been inspected by Jockey Club senior veterinarian Brian Stewart and passed as fit to run, and the gelding's progress would continue to be monitored.
Sacred Kingdom is right on target to maintain his scintillating run of form, according to trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fie.
The Encosta de Lago gelding had his final breeze on Wednesday morning, with race rider Gerald Mosse on board.
'He's fine, everything's exactly as it should be,' said Yiu. 'Unfortunately, I cannot be there because of the [New Zealand] yearling sales, so he will have to win without me.'
Sacred Kingdom created a record he knew little about yesterday when Australian bookmaking agency Centrebet posted him at odds of $1.12 to win the Sprint Cup.
'He's the shortest-priced, fixed-odds Group One favourite in our 15-year history,' Centrebet analyst Neil Evans said.
'In fact, we're almost sure he's one of the shortest priced Group One favourites in racing history.'
The sobering news for those who like ultra-short odds might be that a horse who started at even shorter odds than Sacred Kingdom in a Group One race in Australia was beaten.
Ajax, a champion of his era, was rolled by Spear Chief in the 1939 Rawson Stakes at Rosehill, starting at odds of 1-40 (A$1.025).
Evans said that while world-rated sprinter Silent Witness paid $1.05 on the Hong Kong tote a few seasons back during his barnstorming winning streak, the horse had opened $1.15 at fixed odds.
Manoel Nunes received two suspensions, of two meetings each, as stewards burned the midnight oil more than an hour after the final event at Happy Valley on Wednesday night.
Nunes will ride on Sunday before starting his four-meeting stretch. He was also fined HK$20,000 for each of the two incidents.