Ideal draw gives Xtension a chance
Local horses have taken the past five runnings of the HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile and a favourable draw for the John Moore-trained Xtension might prove the difference between the trophy staying at home again or going abroad.
Xtension (Darren Beadman) was able to convert a similar draw into a narrow Champions Mile victory in April over the course, and again looks to be his edge over the top French filly Sahpresa (Christophe Lemaire).
Sahpresa was a terrific third in the race after racing wide without cover last year behind Beauty Flash and she continues to have no luck at the barrier draw in her circle races.
This race has a whiff of an action replay of 2010, with Able One, Beauty Flash and possibly Flying Blue providing the front-running early but unlikely to offer much in the way of breaking the field up at all. And a jog trot that keeps the pack tightly-bunched offers a similar prospect for Sahpresa, handy to a modest lead but stuck out in the fresh air.
It also presents the possibility of those drawn lower but taking a trail, like Xtension, Jimmy Choux (Jonathon Riddell) and Destined For Glory (Tim Clark), to be all dressed up with nowhere to go when the serious work begins, so Beadman will have to call on all of his skills to ensure clear room in the final 300m.
There is certainly nothing amiss with his form, charging home in three excellent lead-up runs behind Ambitious Dragon, California Memory and more recently Destined For Glory when the pace was also not ideal.
But he has little to spare over a decent foreign contingent, including Sahpresa and the other under-rated French horse Rajsaman (Thierry Jarnet), and there are potential surprise packets all over the event.
Rajsaman appears to have come in the same or better form this year than last, when he shared fourth placing as a three-year-old after occupying a one-out one-back hole through the race. There looks every chance of him finding the same spot and he should be the first trailing horse able to get clear and stake his claim.