Trackwork throws little light as Vision d'Etat keeps everyone in dark
The powerful French team enchanted and teased the fans at Sha Tin yesterday but the horses they most wanted to see, highly rated Vision d'Etat, remains a concealed hand.
The French are always serious players at Hong Kong's showcase meetings, with four Vases and a Cup having made their way back through Paris this last decade and therefore any intelligence that can be gained about them in these few days is valuable.
Elie Lellouche, a past winner of the Hong Kong Vase with Vallee Enchantee (2003), gave a worthwhile preview of his Cup winner Starlish, who impressed with 1,000 metres in 1:04, the final 400m in 25.2 seconds, on the all-weather track.
And Alain de Royer-Dupre's quartet went strong working gallops over 1,200m on the grass, with Mile candidate Gris de Gris the lamp lighter and unbeaten staying filly Dalyakana bringing up the rear.
But if the international media and visiting fans wanted to see Vision d'Etat strut his stuff, they were doomed to disappointment. Trainer Eric Libaud kept the bay firmly under control, though even a strong hand at the end of the reins couldn't prevent us seeing a very healthy, happy horse as he cantered strongly on the all-weather.
It was a similar story for the Vase contender Cirrus des Aigles, a last-start six-length winner at Longchamp of a race that has previously thrown up two Vase winners. But Cirrus was also held down to steady exercise, completing his final 800m in 63 seconds and barely breaking evens (29 seconds, to be exact) for his final 400m.
However, Group One winner Laurel Guerreiro was allowed to give an insight as to why he owns the best record of any sprinter in Japan. The five-year-old really motored on the main turf track, running 1,200m in 1:20.7. The first half of the journey was mere workmanlike but then he really stepped on the gas, zipping over the final 600m in 35.7 seconds, the last 400m in 21.9 and the ultimate 200m in 11 flat.
While three of Australia's quartet of Group One winners worked fast on Tuesday, trainer Grahame Begg saved up All Silent for a steady 1,000m. The bay was handled by his race rider Nick Hall and clocked 1:09.4 for the full trip, 39 seconds for his last 600m and 24.6 for his final 400m. Begg's prediction that All Silent would not impress without his blinkers proved spot on, with All Silent changing stride and looking relatively awkward inside the final 200m. Or as Begg so colourfully put it, Batman without his cape.
California Flag, a last-start hero of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita, is having the same struggles that his higher-profile compatriot Kip Deville endured last year. The grey went 600m on the main turf track and clocked 37.1, the last 200m in 12 seconds but never looked as though he was tracking completely straight in the 'reverse direction' of racing.
Youmzain, the highest-rated horse at the meeting, looked a picture of good health but his energy went back to the stables still trapped inside him after an effortless stroll over 1,000m in 1:15.0.
The novelty of the morning was Vase contender Spanish Moon, prepared by Sir Michael Stoute. The free-running bay was subjected to interval training and completed three laps of Sha Tin. Fitness and stamina are the least of this fellow's issues.