Confidence soars in Redwood camp after blazing gallop
Khalid Abdullah has enjoyed a stellar year with outstanding three-year-old Workforce and may round off 2010 with another Group One triumph tomorrow, if yesterday's trackwork is anything to go by.
The Saudi Arabian prince is the principal of Juddmonte Farm and has owned some of the greatest horses over the past three decades, a list of enormous depth but clearly headed by 1986 European Horse of the Year Dancing Brave.
Abdullah will be represented at Sha Tin with Redwood in the Hong Kong Vase and the handsome dark brown colt arrives in cracking form after a profitable autumn sojourn to Canada.
Redwood was handled by race rider Michael Hills and no horse outside of crack South African sprinter J J The Jet Plane could touch him for time. The colt moved off smoothly down the back straight and followed 400 metres of pacework with a stylish 800 in 51.2 seconds, the last 400 in 22 and the ultimate furlong in 10.8 - an exceptional split for a staying horse. 'That was very good,' said Hills. 'He is in good form and I am hopeful of a really good run on Sunday.'
The handling of Redwood is a family affair, with the colt being trained by Michael's famous father Barry, and another son, Charlie, is here as assistant trainer. 'The horse is in good form and we are very pleased with him,' Charlie Hills said. 'He has no problem with travelling. You can forget his last run in the Canadian International at Woodbine. They went no pace and when they reached the straight the horses all concertinaed. Redwood was bumped about and failed to get a run.'
Outstanding mare Crystal Capella seems to have snuck under the radar, even though she is by the same sire as former champion Ouija Board and will be ridden by jockey of the moment Ryan Moore.
Trainer Michael Stoute was on hand to supervise the mare's final gallop and declared his satisfaction after she reeled off 800 metres in 51 seconds, and the final 200m in 11.4.
'She and [stablemate] Glass Harmonium had an uneventful trip over here and have settled in nicely,' he said. 'She popped a splint in May when ready to run and it just wouldn't settle down. It kept reactivating so that's the reason she's only had the one race this year.
'The positive to that is she comes into this nice and fresh and in good shape. I know she has only raced her own sex but I'm not concerned - she is pretty useful, this filly.'
Time honours for the morning were clearly with J J The Jet Plane, who again rustled the nearby trees in Penfold Park as he whooshed up 400m on the all-weather in a brilliant 21.2 seconds.
There was an air of confidence in the South African camp as the gelding returned to the international stables. 'Very happy with that,' was the succinct comment from trainer Lucky Houdalakis.
Corinne Barbe has endured a horror run with barriers in her three international forays but her smart galloper, Cirrus des Aigles, was unaware of the fuss as he cruised over 1,000 metres in 1:11.5 to complete his Cup preparation.