Luck of draw gives Able One head start
The prospects of a fifth successive home town victory in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile on Sunday took the greatest boost from yesterday's international barrier draw with Able One and his major rival, English-trained Paco Boy, to start from opposite ends of the field.
Able One came out with gate two in a race that promises only a modest tempo in his favour, but Paco Boy's owner, John Warren, will have to fall back on the natural talents of his outstanding galloper after drawing second from the outside in the 14-strong field. 'The horse is well and came back great after the Breeders' Cup, but I would have been happier not to have drawn in 13,' he said.
The draw almost ensures Paco Boy will be giving the John Moore-trained Able One a good start into the home straight.
'I'm very happy with that, though I'll just have to see who's around me before I decide on the tactics,' said Able One's jockey, Darren Beadman. 'It would be good to have an unhurried lead like his last race, but I don't think it's going to be quite that much of a gimme this time.'
In the other race dominated in the past by local horses, the Hong Kong Sprint, Ricky Yiu Poon-fai's Sacred Kingdom (gate two) and Ultra Fantasy (four) drew ideally, but connections of major visiting rivals Rocket Man (six) and J J The Jet Plane (eight), were far from unhappy, too.
'Well, they do say that eight is a lucky number in this part of the world,' said J J The Jet Plane's trainer, Lucky Houdalakis. Felix Coetzee enjoyed an inside run with Singapore champion Rocket Man when he dead-heated with One World in his first appearance at Sha Tin, and the jockey is looking for something similar this time.
'There are some under him that go forward and some he'll be in front of, so he should get the trail we want - that looks pretty good,' Coetzee said.
Yiu said the draws for Sacred Kingdom, already a dual winner of the race, and Ultra Fantasy, were 'almost the ones I would have picked if I had a choice'.
'Sacred Kingdom can save some ground from two and come with a late run and four for Ultra Fantasy really helps because he needs to go forward,' he said.
Vase favourite Americain drew gate nine in the field of 14 over the 2,400m course, but jockey Gerald Mosse was unflustered: 'That's fine by me. The closer we get to the race, the better my horse is.'
Masanori Watanabe, work rider for Japanese Vase hope Jaguar Mail, said: 'When our barrier seven came out, 14 was still left as well, so seven was the better option. From there, we can be aware of horses outside and inside.'
Defending Hong Kong Cup star Vision D'Etat will again line up from gate seven and trainer Eric Libaud said: 'It seems we are pretty lucky on this ground.'
He is expected to get his main opposition from compatriot Planteur (gate 10), the Ed Dunlop-trained Snow Fairy (eight), Hong Kong Derby winner Super Satin (one) and the John Moore-trained local pair Collection (five) and Irian (two).
'I don't think the draw is a huge issue, but if I was to choose one, then where we are in eight is good,' said Dunlop, while Moore said Collection and Irian would 'have all the options' from the inside.
Caspar Fownes had a mixed bag across his four runners, wishing for better alleys for miler Thumbs Up (11) and sprinter Lucky Nine (12), but he was thrilled with the draws for Super Satin and Green Birdie, who came up with seven in the Sprint.
'Green Birdie's draw is perfect - he's not getting much respect in this race as is often the case, but he's flying and we're definitely in the hunt,' he said.