Yen might be too much temptation for Prebble
Leading jockey Brett Prebble will have to choose between cold hard cash and Hong Kong's opening day if Caspar Fownes confirms a start in the Group Two Centaur Stakes in Japan for Lucky Nine and Green Birdie after they trial on Tuesday.
'We haven't made a final decision on whether they go to Japan, but the plan is that both will run in the Centaur on September 11 and then the Sprinters Stakes three weeks later,' Fownes said yesterday. 'And the way they both are working, I expect them to confirm the trip on Tuesday.'
That will present a tricky choice for Lucky Nine's regular partner, Prebble (pictured), as he will have to choose between Hanshin and the new season's first meeting at Sha Tin on the same day. But the strong Japanese yen will make the stake money on offer a powerful incentive.
'Brett will be on board in the trial and he can decide then if he wants to go,' Fownes said. 'I know he probably doesn't want to miss opening day here, but the Centaur is worth almost HK$6 million to the winner, so it is a very serious prize.' And the Group One Sprinters Stakes (1,200 metres) on October 2 at Nakayama is worth HK$20 million in total stakes at current rates, almost half of it going to the winner.
Fownes said the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile in December was still the major local target for Lucky Nine, but the two races in Japan would fit his programme perfectly.
'If they trial well, they'll both go to the Centaur. If they run as well as I hope then we'll go on to the Sprinters Stakes, and if there is a hiccup at any stage then we can come home. Either way, there is still plenty of time to get ready for the international meeting,' the trainer said. 'I think everyone would agree Lucky Nine is the best 1,400-metre horse in Hong Kong and he gets a mile, but his fresh form and sprinting form is also very good. And taking a horse away can really be the making of him mentally.'
As a seven-year-old, Green Birdie didn't get clear running in either race and looked an unlucky second behind Dasher Go Go in the Centaur before another defeat in the Sprinters Stakes behind the other Hong Kong runner, Ultra Fantasy.
'Of course, he's a year older now but you wouldn't know it from his work - Green Birdie's flying in the mornings and eating up really well and I couldn't be happier,' Fownes said. 'We haven't decided on a jockey for him in Japan but, after the trial, I'll run a few names past the owner and see what he wants to do.'
The John Moore-trained Mighty High and Silver Grecian are also going well in quarantine ahead of their tilt at the Melbourne spring carnival.
Champions & Chater Cup winner Mighty High is expected to have a lead-up run on September 24 at Caulfield into his main aim, the Group One Caulfield Cup, while Silver Grecian's first target is the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1,400 metres) on the same day.