Cup field fears slow speed may be barrier
Connections of the leading chances were more concerned about the lack of early speed in Sunday's HK$14 million Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup than which barriers they drew yesterday.
When quietly spoken Japanese trainer Masanori Ito selected barrier one for his entrant, Never Bouchon, and then intimated his long-striding stayer would be out to set a genuine gallop, he was not the only trainer relieved to see he had drawn an ideal gate.
'I am very happy to have drawn gate one, because the draw is very important for the 2,000 metre start at Sha Tin, and for my horse,' Ito said.
'In Japan the barrier draw is always decided by a computer, so I was a bit nervous having to select the number for myself. An outside barrier would not have been good for my horse - he is a long strider who doesn't usually lead in Japan, but he does like to gallop at a good speed throughout.
'He doesn't have a big finish like some of the other horses in the field, so I will be happy to see him leading, especially now he has drawn well,' Ito said.
Peter Ho Leung's locally trained Mr Medici appears the other main early speed influence and, from barrier three, jockey Alex Lai Hoi-wing will have the option of racing outside Never Bouchon or taking a trail behind the Japanese runner should jockey Hiroki Goto really fire up his mount from the outset.
'Barrier three is ideal for this horse; he's a galloper who can run solid 23 second sectionals throughout the race, so he'll be rolling along and should be hard to get past,' Ho said.
'My other runner, Packing Winner, sustained a minor injury to his right foreleg and had to be scratched from the race which was disappointing, but Mr Medici is in good form and I am very happy with how he is racing.'
Trainer John Moore fared worst in the draw, with likely favourite Collection drawing barrier eight and Viva Pataca gate seven, but was also buoyed to learn of the Japanese runner's likely tactics.
'If we'd drawn seven and eight in a 14-horse field it would be middle of the line and no one would be worried about it,' Moore said. 'I think the most important thing is the pace. If the Japanese horse goes along at a decent pace then the gates won't be a problem.'
Douglas Whyte is re-united with Derby winner Super Satin and, while he admits that Caspar Fownes has set the four-year-old gelding a big task, the champion jockey said the trainer had the horse looking and feeling great.
'It's no easy task to come back a month after winning the Derby and take on world-class older horses,' Whyte said. 'But he's one of the better four-year-olds going around at the moment, I was on him in trackwork and he's fresh, feels well and I can't fault him.'
Vengeance Of Rain, the 2005 winner, is the only horse to have completed the Derby-QE II Cup double in the same year and Super Satin has big shoes to fill if he is to follow in his footsteps.
'Barrier four is ideal for Super Satin, gate one or two can sometimes be tricky and the outside barriers can be a nightmare, but from four I should be able to slot in wherever he feels comfortable,' Whyte said.
Last year's winner Presvis, trained by Luca Cumani, drew barrier six, and Mick de Kock's South African visitor, Lizard's Desire, came up with barrier two.