Derby favourites get luck of draw
Helene Mascot and Dao Dao emerge with plum gates to set up mouth-watering clash
Sunday's HK$16 million Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby was further distilled into a match race yesterday as favourites Helene Mascot and Dao Dao drew ideally at the expense of their strongest dangers.
Helene Mascot, the leading light among trainer Tony Cruz's four runners in the classic, could not have been better placed in drawing gate three early in yesterday's draw proceedings, but John Size and Douglas Whyte were just as pleased when gate two materialised for Dao Dao.
'That's perfect - I couldn't have wished for better. I expect he'll be fairly prominent in running and barrier two will make life easier from what is not the easiest starting point if you draw wide,' said Whyte, while trainer Size was as much relieved as excited at the draw for Dao Dao's first attempt beyond 1,600m.
'He won't have to do too much work from there,' Size said. 'The way he's finishing off over a mile gives the indication he will get 2,000m and he will go into it with fresh legs. I galloped him myself this morning and he felt very good, so we go there with some chance.'
Cruz's luck was in almost across the board as he came up with gate one for Danesis, three for Helene Mascot and four with likely leader Luckyme, while Great Guy (10) was his only wide barrier.
'Helene Mascot is well over the foot problem that affected him before the Derby Trial, he's working well and I couldn't be happier,' a delighted Cruz said. 'Great Guy is suspect at the distance wherever he drew but my best three have all drawn perfectly.
'I hope we make up for last year when Floral Pegasus was just nailed on the post - losing by a length is okay, you can say you weren't good enough. Losing by a whisker was hard to take. Helene Mascot is my best chance but I don't think anyone has seen the best of Danesis yet and I'm expecting him to run very well.'
Helene Mascot's jockey, Felix Coetzee, chasing a second Derby trophy to sit beside the one he collected with Lucky Owners four years ago, was also sounding confident: 'I'm happy with the draw. He should be in the right place and I'm just hoping for a smooth run through the race.'
It couldn't have been more different for Caspar Fownes, also four-handed in the race but his runners start from gates seven (Horace's Choice), eight (Win Practitioner), nine (Jackpot Delight) and 12 (Green Birdie) in the 14-horse field and he knows it won't improve his chances.
'Especially with Helene Mascot and Dao Dao drawing inside, that's going to make it harder to win, especially for Green Birdie,' he said. 'The horse is so relaxed now that I was hoping to draw low and have him ridden closer. Now we have to think about what we'll do but I suppose Olivier [Doleuze] will just have to go back from 12 and ride him for luck.
'Win Practitioner and Jackpot Delight would get back regardless of the draw anyway and Horace's Choice wouldn't be going forward, so it probably didn't make a great difference to those three. I'm certainly happy enough with the condition of the four of them.'
Likewise, Paul O'Sullivan had already determined that Never Look Back (Gerald Mosse) would be ridden quietly but agreed gate five will be no disadvantage.
'The idea is to get him switched off so Gerald will be able to bury him from an inside draw and hopefully that will help,' he said.
David Ferraris, however, was one trainer clearly disappointed when Fearless drew gate 11. 'I think blinkers will make a big difference and he will get the 2,000m, but he also needed a better gate,' Ferraris said.