Bin Suroor wants a happy ending for African Story
Godolphin's head trainer, Saeed bin Suroor, arrived in Hong Kong early to witness a sparkling track gallop by Champions Mile contender African Story yesterday and liked what he saw, adding that soft ground on Sunday would help the striking chestnut transfer his red-hot all-weather track form to the turf.
Bin Suroor watched African Story work impressively on Sha Tin's all-weather track, the five-year-old running a solid a 1:14.3 overall, including a speedy 22.7 seconds for his final 400 metres, and said the five-year-old looked better than before his dominant last-start win in the Godolphin Mile.
'It was a nice final blow-out for him before the race,' Bin Suroor said.
'It was very good work. He is very happy and to me the horse looks much better than when he ran in Dubai ... physically he is improving and he didn't sweat. He is going the right way now and there's no excuse for him in the race.'
The four-length romp on World Cup night was African Story's third win from his last four starts, all of those victories on Meydan's forgiving Tapeta, and part of an exceptional four-from-five record on non-turf surfaces.
The son of Pivotal is just one from seven on the grass, but has never been out of a place in four tries on rain-affected ground.
'He won and has run well on soft going,' Bin Suroor said. 'If it is good ground, it should be okay, but we don't want it to be firm. We want it to be safe for him.'
African Story arrived a full two weeks before the race to avoid Dubai's stifling heat, and the move seems to have paid off with the horse looking superb in his morning exercises.
'The horse is really very well and I'm happy with him,' Bin Suroor said. 'He needed that two weeks before the race. He had done his main work in Dubai before he travelled and since coming here he is relaxed and happy. Mentally he is fresh.
'It's a very tough race with some nice horses in it. Hopefully we will see a good run from him.'
Raceday jockey Silvestra de Sousa arrives today and Bin Suroor will be instructing the Brazilian to ride aggressively. 'We will sit handy and close to the front. That's what he likes to do,' he said.
John Moore has booked 20-year-old New Zealand jockey James McDonald to ride last year's winner Xtension, one of the trainer's five runners in the race.
Jeff Lloyd will ride two-time race winner Able One, with Weichong Marwing booked on Admiration.
Tim Clark will partner Sunny King and Tye Angland will ride Destined For Glory.