HK heroes set to seek riches abroad
Pataca to join International Races stars Ba Ba and Inspiration on foreign missions
A series of international adventures started to take shape yesterday, with Viva Pataca possibly joining champion Good Ba Ba and shock winner Inspiration on rich global assaults in the new year.
Viva Pataca's trainer, John Moore, confirmed he will enter the luckless Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup favourite for the US$5 million Dubai Sheema Classic on World Cup night at the end of March, though a start will depend on the support of owner Stanley Ho Hung-sun.
Similarly, Sunday's back-to-back Hong Kong Mile winner Good Ba Ba may take on the world's best over 1,777 metres on the same night in the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free, subject to talks between trainer Andreas Schutz and owner John Yuen Se-kit.
But the more certain starter is Inspiration, who repelled the foreign invasion at odds of 67-1 to give Hong Kong its seventh successive win in the Hong Kong Sprint. Moore said he would enter Inspiration for the Group One Lightning Stakes (1,000m) at Flemington on January 31.
'Now that he's won at international level, there is really no choice but to press forward with him in races of this kind,' he said. 'I think the main thing with him is to keep him fresh. He's always sprinted very well when he's been trained that way.'
Success there could lead Inspiration to even bigger goals, as the Lighting Stakes is the first leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, taking in feature sprint races in Australia, England, Japan and Hong Kong.
Good Ba Ba will run again in the Citi Stewards' Cup on January 24 before Schutz and Yuen make a decision on Dubai. Last year, the trainer did not even consider the possibility with the champion miler but this year his thinking has expanded. 'The one thing I'd definitely say is that we won't go to Japan again,' Schutz said. 'But the race in Dubai is worth a lot of money and I think it's something we need to think seriously about.'
Owner Yuen is known to be personally averse to travel, but Schutz has successfully convinced him to take the horse to Japan twice before, to the Yasuda Kinen in 2007 and again this year, only to have the gelding fail both times.
However, Schutz reasons the common denominator in each of those performances was they were at the end of long seasons, and having a fresh-and-well Good Ba Ba in Dubai at the height of his powers could be a different proposition.
Moore has two clear options with Viva Pataca - the conservative domestic programme of Stewards' Cup, Hong Kong Gold Cup, Audemars Piguet QE-II and Champions & Chater, or the possibility of another assault on the Sheema Classic.
This year, Viva Pataca ran a slashing second to the Mike de Kock-trained Sun Classique (Kevin Shea) in Dubai and it was ironic the same combination thwarted them on Sunday in the Hong Kong Cup.
'I've said it many times I'd love to win a Group One on foreign soil and I do believe Viva Pataca is the right horse to do it,' Moore said. 'The thing is he's so much more relaxed and settled this season than last, and that would be a big asset if he was travelling.'
Viva Pataca got very hot and bothered in the paddock prior to this year's Sheema Classic and it seemed to tell at the end of his race, running out of energy in the final 100 metres after looking the likely winner 200 metres out.
'He will be entered for Dubai, you can be sure of that, but as to whether he goes or not will depend on Dr Ho. If he is happy for us to travel the horse to Dubai again, then he'll probably go,' Moore said.
'But he's the boss and what he decides will be final.'