Japanese punters quick to jump on Green Birdie
Patrick Allen in Tokyo
Green Birdie is the horse to beat in the Group One Sprinters Stakes (1,200m) according to Japanese punters, and the Hong Kong speedster has opened $2.60 favourite to win at the Nakayama racecourse today.
The public have not failed to notice Green Birdie's luckless second in the Centaur Stakes at Hanshin on September 12, and the Caspar Fownes-trained gelding was posted favourite in the first call of the Japanese tote prices yesterday.
The Ricky Yiu Poon-fai trained Ultra Fantasy was $21.80 when the betting opened, and is likely to press forward from barrier seven to match motors with Kinshasha No Kiseki ($4.40), who has drawn wide in 14.
Green Birdie's reputation precedes him, however, and after humbling the mighty Rocket Man on his home track to win the KrisFlyer International Sprint in Singapore in May, is expected to be hard to beat.
Green Birdie arrived in Japan at the top of his game and produced an excellent first-up performance in the Centaur Stakes, where he was buried away on the rails before sprinting brilliantly to finish an unlucky second to Dasher Go Go. That horse has drawn barrier two and is $17.70 in the early market.
From gate six, jockey Mark Du Plessis will have the option of slotting in for cover and should be able to remain one off the fence in a perfect striking position as they make the sweeping turn and enter the straight.
With the promise of a genuine tempo by likely leaders Kinshasha No Kiseki and Ultra Fantasy, the race appears tailor-made for a horse to swoop on the tiring front-runners as they climb the rise to the post.
Outsider Western Venus ($147.50) also promises to show early dash and will need to if he is to cross from the outside gate in the 16-horse field.
One Carat should also be able to take advantage of a hot early pace and, after drawing barrier eight, might be able to track Green Birdie's every move if her jockey, Yusuke Fujioka, chooses to take an early sit as he did when the mare brilliantly won the Group Three Hakodate Sprint Stakes (1,200m) in July.
The four-year-old, who carved out record time in winning the Hakodate Sprint, is a close second-elect and opened at $2.80 - based on that race and her Keeneland Cup win in which she beat last year's Sprinters Stakes quinella of Laurel Gurreiro and B B Guldan, who are $7.10 and $8.80 respectively for today's event.
The Group One Sprinters Stakes will be simulcast live on Cable TV Channel 18, ATV Home and ATV HD channels from 2.30pm with the start scheduled at 2.40pm.