Scenic Blast withdrawn from Sprint Trial
The 'best race of the season' took its first hit yesterday with the scratching of Australian powerhouse Scenic Blast from the Cathay Pacific International Sprint Trial at Sha Tin on Sunday.
While the trial was robbed of its international flavour and an early showdown between the world's two top-rated sprinters, local trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai declared his champion Sacred Kingdom will win the trial anyway if he 'performs to even 80 per cent'.
Scenic Blast, the King's Stand Stakes winner at Royal Ascot chasing a US$1 million Global Sprint Challenge bonus in the Hong Kong Sprint next month, was first declared for Sunday's lead-up then withdrawn three hours later with a foot problem which has been giving trainer Danny Morton problems since the horse's arrival. The sprinter was reportedly lame after working last Friday and, while he wasn't lame after working on Tuesday, Morton was not totally satisfied with him.
'The horse has minor foot problems, not just here now but as a constant issue which has to be managed,' said Jockey Club international racing manager Mark Player.
'On Tuesday, Danny wasn't altogether happy with how the horse was moving when he went for him to stretch out up the straight, but after he worked this morning he was happy again and that's why he paid up for Sunday.'
However, on cooling down back at his quarantine stable, Scenic Blast did not seem right again to Morton, who called in the vets, and the sprinter was judged lame in his right fore foot. 'Fortunately, the confident prognosis is that Scenic Blast will be right again for the Hong Kong Sprint. We still have three weeks up our sleeve,' Player said.
The absence of a major rival might be a dampener for the Jockey Club but won't do anything to lower the confidence of the Sacred Kingdom team, with both jockey Brett Prebble and trainer Yiu all smiles.
'This is some race, so it won't be any pushover, but the horse is flying,' declared Prebble at Happy Valley on Wednesday night, and Yiu was no less positive yesterday despite the gelding having his first run for five months this weekend.
'We missed the Sprinters Stakes in Tokyo only because of a shoeing problem, but that's all that was and it is long past,' he said. 'Sacred Kingdom's trial last week was outstanding and, touch wood, there has been no problem since. He has a good draw, the hottest form jockey in town, and I think if he runs to even 80 per cent of what he can do, he will win this race.
'I would say his form is as good as he was for the race he won here before winning the KrisFlyer Sprint in Singapore - in very good form but with a little more improvement for international day.'
In other trial news, trainer Tony Cruz has been interviewed by the racing stewards over International Mile Trial runner Egyptian Ra's barrier trial last Friday.
The trial was described by Cruz at the time as 'disappointing' but Egyptian Ra was found to have a bruised left front foot. Cruz said he had arranged for Egyptian Ra to be re-shod to provide support for the foot, and told stewards he has been pleased with the horse's work since.