A crate way to travel - Macau horses cruise in to take on their big-city rivals in goodwill race
Christophe Soumillon, France's champion jockey for 2003, will jet into Hong Kong tomorrow and take six rides in Macau on Saturday before partnering Analyst in the inaugural $2.3 million Hong Kong-Macau Trophy at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Macau Jockey Club director of racing Ian Paterson said yesterday Soumillon had confirmed his participation over the big weekend, which sees Macau horses participating in Hong Kong for the first time since the MJC's inception in 1981.
'Christophe is coming for his second stint as a club jockey in Macau and it's great that he'll be able to represent us on this special day in Hong Kong,' Paterson said. 'I understand a number of Hong Kong trainers have also committed to give him other rides on Sunday's card, but I don't have those confirmations at this stage.'
Although the 22-year-old Belgian champion is still in Europe, his mount Analyst arrived safely at his Sha Tin accommodation yesterday morning, along with his five fellow Macau representatives, after an overnight trip on a barge.
The barge was towed out of Macau at 2am and arrived in Hong Kong shortly before 7.30 yesterday morning.
'Each of the horses travelled well and they all arrived in Hong Kong fit and well,' Paterson said. Analyst is the best-performed of the Macau horses, having won last year's Macau Derby by 103/4 lengths, albeit on a heavy track. His last win was in the Group 3 Autumn Trophy over 1,500 metres at Taipa on November 29. Paterson said that while Analyst must be respected, the Macau horse in the best form is Australian-bred gelding Crown's Gift.
'The only hole in the form of Crown's Gift is that he hasn't gone 1,600 metres at this stage of his career,' Paterson said. [Macau has a 1,500 metres start on turf but if horses require farther, the next distance is 1,800 metres].
'But he's a go-forward horse who has had three wins and three seconds from his last six starts, so he's a very genuine racehorse,' Paterson added.
Soumillon is one of the most accomplished jockeys in the world, despite his relative youth. He was a whirlwind success during his three-month tenure as a club jockey in Hong Kong from December to March in the 2002-03 season, riding 15 winners from 120 mounts, with total prizemoney earnings of $13.7 million.
On his return to France, at the end of March last year, Soumillon landed one of the greatest opportunities a jockey can receive - to be the retained rider for the Aga Khan. He also found favour with France's long-time champion trainer, Andre Fabre, and with that abundance of opportunities he sailed to an easy win in the French jockeys' championship for 2003.
British jockey Brett Doyle, another former Hong Kong jockey, will return to Sha Tin to take the ride on Crown's Gift. Like Soumillon, he is expected to arrive tomorrow and will ride his Trophy mount in trackwork at Sha Tin on Saturday.
The Michael Kent-trained Thunder Bird will be handled by Australian Michael Cahill, 38, who was a club jockey in Hong Kong for the final term of the 2002-03 season. But he has met with far greater success this season in Macau, where he leads the jockeys' premiership with 58 wins - 17 clear of Hong Kong's new club jockey Olivier Doleuze.