Prebble hopes for glory at Hanshin
Top jockey Brett Prebble has made the toughest decision of his Hong Kong career by opting for a single shot at international glory over a plum book of rides at home on opening day following Lucky Nine's barrier trial at Sha Tin yesterday.
The Australian hoop was forced to choose between travelling to Hanshin to ride the Caspar Fownes-trained five-year-old in the Group Two Centaur Stakes (1,200m) on Sunday week, or a potentially lucrative meeting at Sha Tin on the same day.
Prebble had pencilled in eight rides to kick-start his season, including engagements on unbeaten three-year-old Bear Hero and potential top-line sprinter Eagle Regiment.
A slick trial win yesterday by Lucky Nine, and some understanding owners, convinced Prebble to chase the Centaur's HK$6 million first prize. 'It's the toughest decision I've had to make since being here,' he said. 'I stewed over it long and hard.'
Complicating matters were trainer David Ferraris' plans to take Bear Hero to Prebble's hometown of Melbourne for a tilt at the Group One Coolmore in October.
Premiership rival Douglas Whyte will now ride Bear Hero on opening day at Sha Tin, but a meeting with the colt's owner, Peter Fan Pong-cho, assured Prebble he would be aboard if the horse does head Down Under as expected.
'He said, 'I totally understand your position' and I've got to thank him for that, it made my decision a lot easier,' Prebble said. 'I've given up rides on two horses of very good potential on the way up, but Lucky Nine is a world-class horse.'
Franking Prebble's assessment was a strong 1,050m trial win on Sha Tin's all-weather track yesterday.
'I think he'll win in Japan and that trial backs my decision to go,' Prebble said. 'He was up against a pretty good class of horse today - they're fit horses that were racing right up to the end of last season. I'm happy with the performance and I'm happy to go ride him. Let's just hope I can come away with the win.'
Fownes trialled fellow Centaur hopeful Green Birdie (Tye Angland) in the same heat and the veteran produced a glimpse of his ability with some impressive closing sectionals. Both horses leave for Japan tomorrow, with plans to start in both the Centaur at Hanshin and the Group One Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama on October 2.
Green Birdie was unlucky in both Japanese sprints last season, finishing second and seventh, but his star faded slightly during a winless 2010-11 domestic season.
Fownes, however, is adamant the gelding can recapture the form which saw him beat Rocket Man in the 2010 Krisflyer International Sprint in Singapore.
'He is in great form. He's eight years old, but he is remarkable,' Fownes said. 'He has only had 30 starts for me, so he hasn't been overly tanked and when he has been beaten, he hasn't been beaten very far. But he just amazes me. He seems to be thriving. Green Birdie was unlucky there last year and I'm sure he won't be far away again. He is pain-free and travels really well.'