Green Birdie draws barrier one at Hanshin
Star Hong Kong sprinter Green Birdie will get every chance to make a winning debut in Japan after drawing barrier one for the Group Two Centaur Stakes (1,200m) at Hanshin racecourse tomorrow.
Local favourite Kinshasa No Kiseki has drawn alongside him in barrier two, but trainer Caspar Fownes was more than pleased with the inside gate, and will instruct jockey Mark Du Plessis to allow the gelding to race wherever it is comfortable.
'He can pretty much run his own race from the inside barrier,' Fownes said. 'I'll be telling Mark just to have him travelling comfortably and I hope he can give us a really good kick to finish. Whatever he does on Sunday he will improve on in the Sprinters Stakes (October 3), but he's pretty much bang on his right bodyweight to be running a very good race this weekend.'
Sweltering conditions and a lack of recent racing at the Hanshin course have led to some concerns of a hard racing surface, but Fownes is confident his speedster will handle anything thrown his way on race day.
'He coped with a taxing 10-hour float trip from the quarantine centre very well on Wednesday, his legs are sound and he's eating every oat,' Fownes said. 'It has been 35 or 36 degrees [Celsius] there this week, and because they haven't raced there for a while some people are saying the track will be as hard as a road.
'I see no reason that he won't handle the conditions if the track is hard, but they are also predicting showers on the weekend so you never know what the course will be like until we get there and see for ourselves on Sunday.'
A few drops of rain leading into the event would only strengthen Green Birdie's chances - after he decimated a field of the world's best sprinters in the Group One Singapore KrisFlyer Sprint at his most recent start in sodden conditions.
Local market makers have installed Kinshasa No Kiseki as even-money favourite on the strength of his victory in Japan's premier sprint, the Takamatsunomiya Kinen.
The equal topweight with Green Birdie, however, has not raced for six months and is also being aimed at the Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama racecourse in Tokyo on October 3.
The Centaur Stakes, the fifth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, will be simulcast at 2.35pm as part of the Jockey Club's normal trackside coverage on Sunday.