Planteur underlines his Cup credentials
If you didn't know they always work horses in strings, you'd swear the French were running a thimble-and-pea con for track watchers yesterday. But even the distraction of galloping in the same caravan as reigning Hong Kong Cup hero Vision d'Etat failed to deflect the spotlight from outstanding three-year-old Planteur.
Although five of the French candidates for Sunday's meeting worked off in an elongated string, with around 10-12 lengths separating each horse, it was Planteur's star that shone brightest and had his merit captured accurately by the stopwatch.
With work rider Sam Fargeat on board, Planteur worked manfully through a strong gallop over 1,400 metres, chasing a breakneck speed set by stablemate Board Meeting (Anthony Crastus), who will contest the Vase.
Clearly riding to the instructions of trainer Ellie Lellouche, Crastus put the foot to the floor at the jump, running the first 200m in under 12 seconds. He maintained that gallop for 800m (48.1 secs) before sitting up and waiting for Fargeat on Planteur at the home turn. The pair then completed a strong final 400m in 23.4 seconds, the last 200m in 12.15. However, the quality of the gallop was exposed in the overall time - an incredible 1:24.5 for the 1,400m, making it arguably the gallop of the week.
Lellouche, 58, who has trained many Group One winners, including Hong Kong Vases with Partipral (1995) and Vallee Enchantee (2003), was not looking to hide his strong opinion of Planteur's chance in the Cup (2,000m).
'He's worked very well, as always on the turf, and I fancy him for the Cup over 2,000 metres,' said Lellouche, speaking in French. 'This is the perfect trip for him. He's proved that to us in the Arc [2,400m] and I was already wary of his lack of stamina to cover 12 furlongs. He's by Danehill Dancer out of a Giant's Causeway mare whose dam is by Lear Fan - a pure miler's pedigree really. He's only three but this is the end of the season and Vallee Enchantee, who probably wasn't as good as him, won the Vase at three here in 2003.'
Elsewhere, in the revealing French string, Vision d'Etat went his final 1,200m in 1.20.4, the final 400m in 25 seconds. While not as spectacular as Planteur's exhibition, it was more than the stallion did before the Cup last year, where he won comfortably from a slightly unlucky Collection. This gallop underlined both his fitness and soundness.
Stacelita, the multiple Group One-winning French mare with the all-German pedigree, was another one of the stars to shine. Trainer Jean-Claude Rouget was grounded in France by the severe storms but, in his absence, race rider Christophe Lemaire put Stacelita through a sharp 1,200m in 1:14.5, the final 400m in 22.6 seconds.
Stacelita has won eight of her 12 starts, including four of eight at Group One level, and hasn't started since her head second to Lily of the Valley over 2,000m in the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp on Arc day (October 3).
Hong Kong Mile favourite Paco Boy had the option of working on the turf but trainer Richard Hannon chose the all-weather track, where the big-hearted stallion breezed 1,000m in 1:10.3, the last 600m in 40.2 seconds and the ultimate furlong in 12.3.
The wait for multiple classic winner Snow Fairy to do something spectacular will be further extended after the glamour girl strolled a leisurely 1,200m outside even time (1:32.0), improving over the final 200m in 13.5 seconds.