A day of reckoning for two stars of the turf
By ROBIN PARKE
HONG KONG'S equine superstars take centre stage today - at home and away.
All-time champion River Verdon bids for a record-setting Triple Crown success by taking the $2.75 million Champions and Chater Cup at Sha Tin while Winning Partners tackles the multi-million dollar Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo.
Both horses have carried Hong Kong's colours to glittering success in the past. River Verdon, who will have amassed almost $20 million if he succeeds in today's 2,200-metre Champions and Chater, is a past winner of the Invitation Cup while Winning Partners captured the 1,400-metre International Bowl last December.
Confidence is high in both camps with trainer David Hill simply not hearing defeat for his champion, River Verdon, who is a raging 10-1 on favourite.
''Unless something goes amiss, I can't possibly see them beating him,'' was his crisp assessment of the race yesterday.
Having won the race three times previously and now better suited by the increased distance, River Verdon does look virtually unbeatable and will start at impossibly short odds.
Hill is unconcerned about missing the Chairman's Prize last week. He said: ''He would have run had John Marshall been available to ride him but, in the context of the Triple Crown, I don't think it was particularly important.
''I am sure he would have run very well and would have added more stake money to his record. But he is absolutely fit and ready to run.'' With only eight accepting for the race, River Verdon faces limited opposition in quality and quantity. It would be no major surprise if his joint-champion trainer, Hill, provided the race quinella as he also saddles up Fortune Leader, an out-and-out stayer.
Meanwhile, in Tokyo veteran Australian trainer Neville Begg wrapped up Winning Partners' preparation for the one mile invitation race which sees the gelding tackle European invaders Ski Paradise and Sayyedati and the best Japanese milers in the country.
But Begg holds out hopes of a top run from his excellent Bowl winner.
''I do not believe for a minute that the trip will be a problem, rather the reverse. And he has gone very well in the past week and is ready to run a top race. I don't think he will let anyone down,'' said Begg.
The Jockey Club will show a special telecast of the Japan race at Sha Tin today.
and if Winning Partners can run anywhere in the first half dozen he will have done Hong Kong proud.