Youmzain leads foreign threat to home runners
The HK$14 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase has been the preserve of the invaders for more than a decade and even an unusually strong local team might not be enough to stop that trend continuing.
Not since Indigenous won the Vase in 1998 has Hong Kong been able to provide a victory in this event and even providing runners has been a challenge at times over the 2,400m, which is so rarely contested here. This year will see Horse of the Year Viva Pataca, Thumbs Up, Packing Winner and Jamesina offer a more serious home-town defence, but the strength of the visiting horses has lifted as well, with three Group One winners among them.
The Mick Channon-trained Youmzain tops the ratings on 125 and, although a Group One winner in his own right, is more widely known for finishing runner-up to three champions in Dylan Thomas, Zarkava and Sea The Stars in the past three runnings of Europe's biggest race, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Incredibly consistent throughout his career, Youmzain has not finished out of the first five anywhere since mid-2006.
Luca Cumani returns with 2008 Vase second Purple Moon, who has also been second in a Melbourne Cup and third in the Dubai Sheema Classic earlier this year, just ahead of Youmzain, and the Vase will feature the second, third and fourth placings from that Sheema Classic.
Sir Michael Stoute, who won the Mile in 1994 with Soviet Line and the Vase with Daliapour in 2000, saddles up Spanish Moon, a recent fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf who was beaten by a nose in Dubai in March.
Spanish Japanese stayer Jaguar Mail, who was a photo-finish away in third behind Doctor Dino last year, has bypassed the Japan Cup to run in the Vase and comes in with a similar style of preparation after finishing fifth last start in the Group Two Copa Republica Argentina in Tokyo.
French stayer Cirrus des Aigles has the great record of having missed the first three only once in 17 starts, while Alain de Royer-Dupre and the Aga Khan are represented by unbeaten filly Daryakana, who made it four from four in the Group Two Prix de Royallieu on Arc weekend.
Three of her four wins have been on soft going, but she has also won on firm ground and is an improving filly who will have the best of the weights with only 117 pounds on board.
Group One-winning North American mare Black Mamba will fly two flags in the Vase as she is having her first start for her Hong Kong owner after changing hands recently in Kentucky for US$1.5 million.