French again hold the whip hand in Vase
The chances of the locals breaking their long drought in the Hong Kong Vase look slimmer than ever as just two seemingly over-matched Hong Kong horses face another French onslaught in the distance feature.
Gallic gallopers have won four of the last five runnings of the race, and the French have sent four classy stayers for this year's event - led by last year's winner Dunaden, and joined by Meandre, Chinchon and Pagera.
The inclusion of Michael Stoute's Sea Moon - eighth in the Arc de Triomphe, but who boasts wins over Vase rivals Dunaden and Dandino - gives the race three horses rated in the world's top 30, and is an indication of where the race sits globally.
Seven of the 14 entrants are trained in Great Britain, but it is the French who appear to hold the balance of power in this race.
Andre Fabre's Meandre was a disappointing 12th in the Arc, but a 12-furlong win over Shareta and Gallikova earlier this year looks a strong form reference, as does a runner-up effort to Orfevre two starts back. Chinchon has run just once since his win in the Singapore Airlines International Cup in May, but his proven ability to travel to this part of the world grants him some respect; while Pagera was a recent Group Three winner in her homeland and second to Mile entrant Siyouma last start in the E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.
Sunday's Japan Cup will provide the pathway to three Vase entrants, with two of them - Mount Athos and Red Cadeaux - backing up from the Melbourne Cup. Mount Athos was storming home at Flemington in an unsuitably run race, and it seems like his best is ahead of him, while locally owned Red Cadeaux will be out to better his dead-heat third of last year in the Vase.
Jaguar Mail returns as the sole Japanese entrant, and will also come via Tokyo's mile-and-a-half feature; the eight-year-old lining up for his fourth crack at the Vase with a third and two fourths in consecutive efforts from 2008.
The local resistance will be led by Stayer of the Year Liberator and Scarlet Camellia, both set for this race, but disadvantaged by the well-documented dearth of suitable lead-up events. Indigenous was the last, and lone, local to win the race in 1998.
The supplementary entry of John Gosden's The Fugue further spices things up. The three-year-old filly comes off a desperately unlucky third in the Breeders Cup Fillies and Mares Turf at Santa Anita, and boasts a Group One win on her résumé, albeit against her own sex.