Can Vision D'Etat ride into the sunset with a second Cup in tow?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 December, 2010, 12:00am

The HK$20 million Hong Kong Cup was the foundation stone of the international meeting but, despite having a longer history than tomorrow's other Group One features, it remains the only one lacking a dual winner - something Eric Libaud-trained Vision D'Etat will be out to change.

The Sprint has had dual winners in Sacred Kingdom and Silent Witness, the Vase with Luso and Doctor Dino and the Mile was won twice by Monopolize when it was the 1,400m Bowl and for the past three years by Good Ba Ba.

But the Cup, started as a limited invitational race in 1988 with no Group status, has never been won twice in its 23 runnings.

'That doesn't bother me,' said Libaud, who also won the Vase in 2001 with Ange Gabriel. 'The horse doesn't know that, so I don't care. Vision D'Etat has travelled well, he wasn't tired after his journey and is in good form since he arrived. Everything has gone well.'

As a three-year-old in 2009, Vision D'Etat had to pass a race-day veterinary check after developing a slight swelling in his right hind fetlock, but he passed the vets, then passed his rivals to claim the Cup later that same day.

This looked like it would be his year to claim an even higher level of performance on the world stage, but that all went wrong at his first appearance with his career-worst performance in Dubai in March.

'In the World Cup, he didn't like the Tapeta surface and hurt himself in the race so any plans we had were put on hold,' Libaud said. 'Instead, we had to be patient and wait for the horse to come right again and wait for the second half of the season.'

His return in the Group Three Prix Gontaut-Biron at Deauville in August yielded a comfortable win before Vision D'Etat was second in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, outsprinted by Twice Over in a slowly run affair.

Like many other outstanding horses of the past, the Hong Kong meeting will be Vision D'Etat's farewell performance before a stud career, and Libaud admits his retirement will leave 'a big hole in the yard'.

'But he will be standing at a farm about 90 minutes' drive from us so it is not like we won't see him again and we do own half of him, so it is not an end but a new adventure,' Libaud said. 'I think he will be a big success as a sire, and hopefully it will mean lots of nice young Vision D'Etats to put in my yard later on.'