The jockey merry-go-around has come full circle for Olivier Doleuze. After having had first shot at all three of Richard Gibson's BMW Hong Kong Derby runners, the Frenchman is happy to end up on Gold-Fun - a horse he says has the tactical versatility to win Sunday's HK$16 million Group One race.
After riding Gold-Fun on debut, suspension cost Doleuze the ride with Douglas Whyte subsequently steering the horse to victory in the Classic Mile. A similar scenario saw Doleuze replaced on the horse's stablemate and Sunday's race favourite, Akeed Mofeed, by the same jockey. Doleuze was left to decide between Gold-Fun and Mizani, a horse he is unbeaten on in two local starts.
"It was not an easy choice because I think Mizani is a damn good horse, but I went for the more versatile horse," he said. "My horse can do anything. You can ride him aggressively, or you can ride him quiet - that's what you need in this race.
"There maybe some horses of better quality, but it's not always the best horse that wins the Derby. It's about being on the horse who can be put in the right place, and respond at the right time - and he is that type of horse. He has been on pace and won, from behind the leader, and then raced wide and won the Classic Mile. I won't be shy to put him in any spot.
"It will be the horse who gets the best run that will win. The Derby is a wonderful race, but every year it is the worst race to ride. You could run the Derby three times and you will have three different winners. You need to be smart and stay out of trouble. You saw how Gold-Fun was able to win the Classic Mile sitting outside of horses and that was a good sign. Even if he gets the worst gate, he can still win."
Gold-Fun and Mizani produced contrasting lead-up trials and that would have made the decision easier for Doleuze. Gold-Fun looked sharp and won on the bridle at Happy Valley last Saturday, while some trackwork watchers were querying Mizani's soundness after his lacklustre effort last Tuesday.
Gibson said Mizani, who will be ridden by Umberto Rispoli, would never look good in a trial because of his awkward gait. "You'd be worried if you saw him trotting up in the mornings because he doesn't have the best action, but he has been that way since he has got here," he said.
While Doleuze diplomatically deflected questions about Mizani, he said Gold-Fun had matured significantly since his debut run nearly four months ago and, while admitting his mount was more of a miler, actually offered that as a positive.
"The Derby is not really like a 2,000m race, it's always a sit-and-sprint," he said. "But you do need a horse that doesn't use himself too much in the race. He has a lot of experience compared to many of his rivals. Now that he has had some runs under his belt, he has matured a lot."