Pataca in form of his life as he attempts to go one better

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 December, 2008, 12:00am

John Moore has been there before with Motivation in 1993, but victory for Viva Pataca in today's HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) would mean much more than another win in the richest race at Sha Tin.

It would set aside the disappointment of 12 months ago, when a brilliant Frankie Dettori on Ramonti was the difference between winning and failing to claim that place in Hong Kong history that belongs to Viva Pataca.

The six-year-old is now in the form of his life. There can be no excuses on that score.

Only true champions win Premier class races with 133 pounds, but Viva Pataca (Darren Beadman) thumbed his nose at weights and measures when he brushed aside the Sha Tin Trophy field first time out - a surprise even to his trainer.

The International Cup Trial followed in cosier circumstances but it was just the kind of plenty-left-in-the-tank prep run that horses need for a major event. Beadman simply cantered the gelding around, dropped Viva Pataca into gear for 100m to put the result away before parking the car without a scratch.

This is a different game, but Viva Pataca has already shown he's up to the job. He just needs it all to fall into place.

Viva Pataca's best efforts have always been when he can be covered up, creep into his race before letting down that breathtaking but relatively short sprint.

In Dubai this year, a wide gate meant he gave too much start, ate up the ground when he dashed but had nothing left by the time he reached Sun Classique.

Mike de Kock was there to foil him then and it will be the Mike de Kock-trained Eagle Mountain (Kevin Shea) that he's chasing today.

De Kock's confidence is palpable and a Breeders' Cup second is a highlight of what is a compelling form history in general. The four-year-old has finished first or second at 10 of 15 starts and comes with fresher legs than the other foreign chances after a fractured pelvis kept him to just two prior runs in 2008.

He raced up on a whirlwind speed in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita before being left hanging in the breeze when the other leaders fell away and Conduit swamped him late.

Eagle Mountain has the speed to be in touch with what looks a worthwhile pace again, courtesy of the likes of Viva Macau, Estejo and Out Of Control, and the fight to keep finding after he brushes them aside.

Viva Pataca will be giving him a start - it's just a matter of how much of a start, and gate six should mean the gap won't be anything like the advantage Sun Classique held in March.

Lush Lashes (Kevin Manning) has enjoyed a stellar year, running nine times for four wins, including three Group Ones. On face value, it is hard not to imagine she must be outside the fresh legs category, but Jim Bolger's decision to bring her, at a time when she might just as easily have been put away with the job well done, commands respect.

Gate 10 has not made things any easier, but if the pace is as competitive as it looks, Manning may be able to slot her in as the field opens up going out of the straight.

Past winners

Yearhorse jockey

2007: Ramonti L Dettori

2006: Pride C Lemaire

2005: Vengeance Of Rain A Delpech

2004: Alexander Goldrun K Manning

2003: Falbrav L Dettori

2002: Precision M Kinane

2001: Agnes Digital H Shii

2000: Fantastic Light L Dettori

1999: Jim and Tonic G Mosse

1998: Midnight Bet H Kawachi