Eagle Mountain shows he's back in business for title defence
Trainer Mike de Kock has been involved in a race against time with Eagle Mountain over the past three weeks, but yesterday, for the first time, the reigning Hong Kong Cup hero gave the right signs he just might recapture his sparkling form of 12 months ago.
Race jockey Kevin Shea took Eagle Mountain out and gave the son of Rock of Gibraltar a stirring bit of speed work on the all-weather track. It started out innocently enough, moving off from the 800 metres, but Shea opened him right up in the final 400 metres and the Eagle screamed back to life.
His final 400m would have done Silent Witness justice, clocking 21.9 seconds - if you think that's unreasonably quick, the Jockey Club's timing team had him going a tenth of a second faster. The final 400 was simply sensational for a middle-distance galloper, 10.8 seconds.
Unlike his Tuesday gallop where Shea had to really stand over Eagle Mountain to get a result, on this occasion the horse was enjoying himself and wanted to run. It was far and away his best piece of work on this tour of duty.
This year's Audemars Piguet QE II Cup winner, Presvis, came out on the turf track, but was not out to make time. His work rider gave him pace work from the 1,200 metres, improving to clock 28.5 seconds for the final 400.
Admittedly, that's not a gallop to write home about, but Presvis now looks in winning order and it must be remembered, he's prepared by the international racing master, Luca Cumani.
Vision d'Etat, a Group One winner at Royal Ascot and winner of eight races at 2,200 metres or less, was also limited to steady work.
The handsome bay colt worked on the main turf track and was just inside even time (1:29.7) for 1,200, clocking 28.8 seconds going home.
Vase contender Cirrus des Aigles hasn't needed much formal work because he's had a busy season on the track in France. But while most horses would have been tired after a season which has seen him sport silks 16 times, Cirrus has done nothing but improve.
Yesterday, he bowled over 1,000 metres in a steady 1:14.7 but did open up nicely in the home stretch, clocking 25.7 seconds for his final 400 and kept improving, stretching out fluently over the final 200 in 12.05.
British visitor Buccellati ran a close sixth, only two lengths from Doctor Dino, in last year's Vase and seems to be a better horse this year. He's also been one of the week's biggest improvers in general appearance, underlined further by a nice breeze yesterday over 1,200 in 1:22.5 (23.9).
Vase rival Spanish Moon did an impressive speed drill at the end of two laps of interval work, clocking 50.6 for 800 metres and impressed with his ultimate 200 split in 11.46 seconds.
However, the honour for the quickest final split of the turf gallopers fell to international galloper War Artist, the Australian-bred racer who began his career in South Africa before graduating to the European scene.
War Artist went smoothly over 800 metres in a solo gallop but picked up the tempo sharply approaching the straight, motoring home in 22.7 seconds for his final 400 and 11.2 for the ultimate split.