Aussie star Dao Dao aims to strike it rich in Mile
Australian raider Dao Dao can either add to, or break, the local's unbeaten record in the HK$12 million Group One Champions Mile, depending on how you class the former Hong Kong galloper.
Either way he will prove hard to beat in what looks on paper to be a highly competitive Champions Mile full of the best of our stars and some strong international form lines.
The Hong Kong-trained gallopers have won all five runnings of the Champions Mile, and have provided nine out of 10 of the placegetters.
Dao Dao has been the only exception, when he came within a head of winning this race last year after almost pegging back Sight Winner and Egyptian Ra in a leader-dominated affair.
All three are back in action, but with Egyptian Ra drawn to the outside this time, and Sight Winner an outsider to repeat his 65-1 success, Dao Dao could be the horse capable of improving on last year's third.
Although he is six years old, Dao Dao has only had 18 starts and, apart from the four-year-olds backing up from their Derby campaigns, is the most lightly raced runner in the field. It is indicative of the way the two trainers who have been involved with this gelding go about their work, and John Size can also take credit for Dao Dao's solid strike rate, after adding four wins and two seconds to his tally during his 2007-08 season.
In all, Dao Dao's record shows a terrific seven wins and eight placings from 18 starts, but the powerfully built Shinko Forest gelding is only now reaching his peak.
Now with Michael Hawkes at the family stable at Rosehill in Sydney, Dao Dao has been competing admirably at the highest level in Australia at his four starts this campaign. Last week's Doncaster Handicap winner Rangirangdoo beat Dao Dao by just a head in the Expressway Stakes (1,400m) at Rosehill in his resuming run, and he lost no admirers when second to outstanding mare Typhoon Tracy in the Futurity Stakes (1,600m) at Caulfield.
Placings in the Blamey Stakes (1,600m) and George Ryder Stakes (1,500m) only confirmed how well the Hawkes stable has him going leading into the race, and all signs from trackwork indicate that he has arrived in better shape than he did when third in this race last year.
'He's settled in a lot better this year, and a lot of people think he probably should have won this race last year,' Hawkes said. 'Jeff Lloyd was very happy with how he is feeling, and if he can get him into a good position from the wide gate, then he should be right in the finish once again.'
The big concern for Dao Dao, according to Hawkes, is whether Lloyd can navigate him into a favourable position from his poor barrier 10, but he may end up with a few options with the long run to the first turn.
Paul O'Sullivan's Stewards' Cup winner Fellowship looks the biggest danger to Dao Dao, but has always struggled to finish of a strong mile and has sat down in the final 50m on more than one occasion.
Champion Miler Good Ba Ba performed below par off an unsuitable tempo in the Dubai Duty Free, and was out-sprinted by Dao Dao last year coming after a stronger preparation.
While it would be nice to hear the Ho Ba Ba chant strike up at Sha Tin, the eight-year-old is beginning to dip in the ratings and his ageing legs may have a task to carry him past his younger rivals.
Fair Trade, Brave Kid and Beauty Flash are all suited better at a mile, but on the back of long Derby campaigns may be outclassed by the more-seasoned stars who have been set for this race.
Number of wins Dao Dao, who is lightly raced for a six-year-old, has recorded from 18 starts: 7