On the Rails
with Alan Aitken
Well the Arc is history, the Melbourne carnival is over and the Breeders' Cup meeting is words on a page, too. The way lies clear for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races to take all the attention for the next month.
What lies ahead in the next 14 days before the announcement of invited runners is the tossing and turning as connections of the overseas stars wrestle with a trip to Sha Tin. The Vase has had pluses with news that Americain and the 2009 English St Leger winner, Mastery, will come and there is positive expectation that Vision D'Etat will defend his Cup. But a number of the highest-profile entries, like retired sprinter Starspangledbanner, have already opted out and it is decision time for others.
Rocket Man arrives on Saturday to tackle Sacred Kingdom in Sunday week's Jockey Club Sprint as both head towards the Hong Kong Sprint on December 12.
Unlike last year's early arrivals, Scenic Blast and Eagle Mountain, we hope that Rocket Man's presence in the lead-up event will enhance rather than flatten the promise of their meeting in the main event.
Sadly, we won't see either of the boom Australian sprinters, Hay List or Black Caviar, the latter having laid down her credentials for the title of world champion in her facile eighth win from eight starts in the Patinack Farm Classic.
With the Australian handicapper responsible for such things, Greg Carpenter, recommending she be raised to an international classification rating of 123, she will not only leap ahead of Sacred Kingdom's current figure but match the peaks of both he and Silent Witness, if it is ratified by the world body at year's end. With the allowance for mares thrown in, that would rank her higher than either of them.
For a horse to have had only eight runs in the length of time she has been racing, Black Caviar obviously has had some issues that might make her the wrong horse to be travelling overseas and it may have been central to trainer Peter Moody's unwillingness, but not seeing her in Hong Kong now is certainly a blow.
At the moment, she has the kind of momentum that Shakespeare's Julius Caesar was talking about in the fourth act of the play - a tide which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Now is Black Caviar's flood time and who knows what will happen with her between now and a tentative plan to come in 2011. A year is a very long time for a racehorse in form.
Locally, the temperature will get a lift with Sunday's Jockey Club Cup, the old International Cup Trial, which will see the Derby horses of last season - Super Satin, Irian, King Dancer - take on Collection to try to upset the current order.