Queen Spumante puts her best foot forward
Japan's Queen Spumante may be the perceived bunny that rival trainers hope to follow in the HK$20 million Hong Kong Cup, but the filly fired off a warning statement yesterday aimed at those who might disrespect her.
Queen Spumante's owners at Green Farm already have a Group One trophy on the mantelpiece, courtesy of her all-the-way victory at Kyoto on November 15, and a power-packed workout this time shows the five-year-old has maintained the rage.
Queen Spumante began her serious work 1,800 metres out and went on the clock from the 1,400m, taking one minute and 27.1 seconds for the full distance.
She went her first 1,000m in a brisk 1:02.9 and kept up the gallop to record 24.2 seconds for her final 400m.
In the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative at Kyoto, Queen Spumante started at odds of 76-1 and led, though pressured by 95-1 shot T M Procure. Rival jockeys paid little attention because of their humble status in the betting market and paid the price, conceding the pair 20 lengths' start from the home turn and failing to make up the leeway.
Racing on right-handed turf like Sha Tin, Queen Spumante has assembled the respectable record of four wins, a second and three thirds from 13 attempts and repeatedly bowls along in her races at the same cruising speed - close to 12 seconds per 200 metres.
Compare that truly run affair with one of the most farcical races this writer has ever witnessed. The venue was Chester (England) in May and the race was won by Vase contender Buccellati. Just three runners turned up for the Ormonde Stakes over 2,700m and after the field jumped away, it appeared none of the three 'competing' jockeys wanted to lead.
So they pulled up and literally walked, daring each other to take it up. You'd have beaten them on foot for the next minute or so, but eventually William Buick on Buccellati took up the leading role and won the race.
The overall time was a laughable 53.4 seconds outside standard.
Yesterday, Buccellati was limited to pace work on the all-weather track and, it has to be said, is thriving in the mild Hong Kong weather. He's looked better at the track each day and is a chance to improve on his one-paced sixth behind Doctor Dino in last year's race.
The other big worker was the French Cup contender Starlish, who turned on the power over 1,200m on the turf, recording 1:15.6, the last 600m in 36.5 and a final 200m in 11.8 seconds.
Vision d'Etat, the highest rated horse in the Cup field, finally broke out of a canter, going 1,200m and recording 56.9 seconds for his final 800m. Trainer Eric Libaud said the Royal Ascot Group One winner may - or may not - gallop on turf this morning, preferring to avoid the 'pressure' of making a 24-hour commitment.