Steely grey may be a little late, but O' Shea certain he'll race to win
Racing To Win may have arrived in Hong Kong two years late, according to trainer John O'Shea, but that won't stop the steely grey producing a bold showing in the richest turf mile race in the world - the HK$16 million Hong Kong Mile.
Australian handicapper Greg Carpenter agreed, saying that at the peak of his career two years ago, Racing To Win would have challenged Good Ba Ba and Happy Zero for favouritism.
However, the equine influenza outbreak in Australia in August 2007 caused the shutdown of all racing in Sydney for almost six months, with strict quarantine measures restricting the movement of horses and severely hampering the careers of such horses as Racing To Win, who was in the prime of his career and from just 14 starts had chalked up eight wins - including four at Group One level.
'There is no way he is at the top of his game now,' O'Shea conceded. 'I truly believe the period during the equine influenza outbreak was going to be his best season, but it obviously just wasn't meant to be.
'In saying that, however, I think he is still good enough to win [tomorrow]. You only have to go back through his ratings to see that he ran a career-best performance this year.'
Carpenter said the gelding's win in this year's Theo Marks Stakes was outstanding, but he would have liked to see Racing To Win in Hong Kong at his peak.
'I think he can run very bravely, and I'm happy to put him in as my third selection,' Carpenter said. 'But the other two local chances appear very hard to beat.'
Racing To Win, now a five-time Group One winner, has been plagued by niggling injury complaints throughout his exciting career - and it is some feat that he remains a top-class horse.
O'Shea's diligent management has played no small part in the grey's longevity.
The Sydney-based horseman arrived in Hong Kong this week for his first foray into international racing, and says he could not be more pleased with how his galloper has travelled.
'His form has been good all season, and he has travelled over in marvellous condition,' O'Shea said. 'He worked over 1,400 metres on the outside of the course proper on Thursday morning and he looks to be spot on now.
'I haven't had a close look through the form because it doesn't concern me - I just want to get our own horse sorted before we worry about anyone else.'
O'Shea is happy to leave the riding of the race to jockey Hugh Bowman, but says he will expect to see the grey sitting somewhere midfield.
'I leave the riding up to Hugh, as he knows how to ride him best,' O'Shea said.
'Barrier 10 is OK for us, as Hugh will just let him travel wherever he feels comfortable.
'As long as he is happy in the run, then he'll have his chance to win in the straight.'
In his prime, Racing To Win had this many victories in 14 starts: 8