Outstanding tactical abilities give Lucky Nine edge in Champions Mile
Hong Kong's gun four-year-olds and the promise of a soft tempo hold the key to the HK$12 million BMW Champions Mile at Sha Tin today with the Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine perfectly poised to take out the race.
The Champions Mile has been the preserve of the local entries in six runnings as an international race and, despite the improved standard of the foreign raiders this year, that promises to play out again in what is an evenly matched field.
Tempo is going to decide the outcome, as it has with all of Hong Kong's Group standard mile races during the past year, with the usual suspects likely to take up the front running.
On paper, the race maps with Sight Winner, Able One (Damien Olivier), Lucky Nine (Brett Prebble) and Beauty Flash (Gerald Mosse) going forward in the early stages, but most likely Sight Winner and Lucky Nine happy to back off and take the third and fourth spots.
That leaves Able One and Beauty Flash steadying and controlling the speed after the first 300m, then finishing the race off in a tick over 22 seconds in the run down the straight, which makes the task of running them down tough for anything giving away much of a start at the 400m.
Where Prebble may win the race though is his tactic in the past of putting Lucky Nine into the race a little early and joining battle at the 350m rather than letting the leaders get away on him before going full thro ttle.
But we have seen in the past that Able One and Beauty Flash are very tough competitors and they won't give in without a fight in what shapes as a blanket finish similar to the Hong Kong Mile that Beauty Flash won in December.
In Lucky Nine's favour is that he has that great tactical speed to adapt to any pace but if there is to be an alternative pace scenario, then it would involve more aggressive roles from the likes of Sight Winner, who can overrace, or Sparkling Power, who has gone better ridden quietly but until recently was a keen, forward-running horse himself.
With more speed in the race or even pressure from an earlier stage if back markers get going around the field on the turn, that would bring another top four-year-old in Xtension (Darren Beadman) right into calculations as he will get a sweet trip in midfield and is another who has been able to rattle off strong sectional times.
Gunning for more
Brett Prebble is the leading Champions Mile jockey since 2005, winning twice, and his strike rate on Lucky Nine is: 60%