Vengeance shows signs he's coming back to his best
Anthony Delpech says the aggression has returned to Vengeance Of Rain's everyday behaviour and he expects that character trait to translate into victory in tomorrow's Group Three Centenary Vase at Sha Tin.
It will be a journey back in time for Vengeance Of Rain, as the Centenary Vase was his first Group win, in 2005, before beginning a winning sequence that ultimately saw him take the Hong Kong Cup and earn the world champion title for that year.
Vengeance Of Rain is a rarity in that he was able to beat the best on the planet in 2005 and do it again in 2007 in Dubai in the Group One Sheema Classic - the world's equal-richest race on turf with total prize money of US$5 million.
To be reaching for and hitting the stars again in 2008 might seem a tall order, but the journey begins tomorrow and Delpech, for one, thinks the 'big horse' is back.
'He's a horse that gives you a certain feeling and when he's right, you just know,' Delpech said. 'When he gets up on his toes, and starts to feel aggressive, that's when he races best.
'In the Hong Kong Cup, he didn't feel like that. He looked a bit duller in the coat in the mounting yard before the race, he wasn't aggressive and he raced flat. But that's not how he feels now. He's bouncing again, he's aggressive again.'
As the reigning Dubai Sheema Classic titleholder, Vengeance Of Rain would be number one on a list of prospective invitees to the renewal of the race in late March but he must first earn that invitation with some current form. And that's why tomorrow's race, a handicap in which he must shoulder 133 pounds, is important.
'We've had a bit of rain, but I don't think it will bother him,' said trainer David Ferraris. 'They say weight will stop trains but I'd sooner take my chance with him in an 1,800-metre race than in a mile which he can't possibly win.
'He's got to give the next horse 10 pounds, and old Bullish Luck has been racing pretty well lately. Normally Bullish Luck would have no chance of beating Vengeance Of Rain but I suppose with a pull in the weights, this time he might get a bit closer to him.'
Ferraris added: 'But I'm still pretty confident he can win. In fact, I would expect him to win.'
Ferraris is buoyed by the fact that the John Moore-trained Super Kid won the Centenary Vase two years ago (when it was decided at 2,000m) with the same weight before progressing to the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup.
'The horse seems to come good at this time each year and it was at this time last year he won the Gold Cup and then the big Dubai race. That's the way we're heading again,' Ferraris said.
Delpech predicted he would ride Vengeance Of Rain more positively tomorrow than he did in the Hong Kong Cup at his last start.
'That's when he's gone best,' he said. 'I rode him positively in Dubai and he travelled like a winner all the way. Besides, he has 133 pounds tomorrow. I don't want to be giving them all that weight and a big start as well. That could make it impossible for him.
'But hopefully, he'll manage the weight all right and the way he feels right now, it's the best he has felt since Dubai.'