Size has Armada battle-ready for HK Mile glory
Unfinished business spurs trainer
A perfect barrier and the promise of a strong speed should give the tactical advantage to Armada in his latest round against Horse of the Year Good Ba Ba in the HK$16 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile.
Armada has been delighting trackwatchers as the training genius John Size fine tunes his New Zealand-bred seven-year-old for a date with destiny.
Size has had the thrill and frustration of three previous seconds in this very race - twice with champion Electronic Unicorn (2001, 2002) and two years ago with Armada, when narrowly beaten by The Duke. So the Australian horseman goes into today's showdown with a strong sense of unfinished business.
That sends a scary message to all rival trainers. Size is respected far and wide for his freakish abilities as a trainer and they are awesome enough on a week-to-week basis. But when he focuses on something he really wants like a first December international, you can bet Armada will be in perfect order for the big day.
Some fans may have preferred Armada to have had a race at the Mile before bumping Good Ba Ba and company on the big day. But herein lies the chestnut's secret weapon - he's unbeaten second-up.
Armada's first-up run behind Enthused in the International Sprint Trial was a beauty. The gelding was run off his feet early but then worked to the line superbly to be beaten just 11/2 lengths in fifth placing.
A study of his sectional times show just what an incredible performance this was. According to the Jockey Club's sectional times, Armada ran his last 800m in 43.64 and his final 400m in 21.71 seconds.
Good Ba Ba has a change of rider, with Christophe Soumillon replacing Olivier Doleuze. While it would be foolish to think of any horse being disadvantaged by the presence of the Belgian super star, Good Ba Ba has some idiosyncrasies that do not allow for error and no one knows them like Doleuze, the man who guided him through a clean sweep of the mile races last season without a single mistake.
If there is to be an upset, it could be caused by a horse who is no stranger to the concept - the John Moore-trained Able One. The 2007 runaway Champions Mile hero went for a spell on a high and came back at the same level, finishing alongside Armada in the Sprint Trial - he was fourth and Armada was a nose away in fifth.
Like so many in the Moore yard, Able One has never looked better and he should be able to follow the strong pace and possibly take over coming to the 200m.
Kip Deville is a wonderful miler from America, winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile in 2007 and runner-up this year behind outstanding French filly Goldikova.
However, he may get posted wide in the run to the 800m corner and that's when his lack of practice on right-handed tracks could come against him.
Armada resumed from a break to clock a brilliant final 400m in (seconds): 21.71