Different venue, usual suspects for Red Cadeaux
Former HKJC chairman Arculli - no stranger to international success at Sha Tin - hopes his star stayer can make up for Japan Cup misery
Former Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli had two observations about the task that faces his talented stayer Red Cadeaux in Sunday's HK$15 million Longines Hong Kong Vase - it's the usual suspects, but they're a tough crowd.
"It's interesting how often you meet the same horses in these races around the world. There seems to be a core of a relatively small group of horses which are good travellers and they line up in different races in different countries," Arculli said at Sha Tin yesterday.
"We've been up against Dunaden a few times now, for example, in Australia, in the UK and here, and there are some others. So we know the opposition, but it's a tough crowd just the same."
Arculli is no stranger to international success at Sha Tin. His legendary champion, River Verdon, won the Hong Kong Cup in its infancy in 1991, and he would be the first to admit it was not the event it is nowadays. And he has won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in the spring with River Verdon and River Dancer.
"But it would be nice to win a Vase with Red Cadeaux , especially after we almost lost him in Tokyo," Arculli said.
"He was galloped on during the Japan Cup, on his right hind I think, and Gerald Mosse said for a moment he thought he had broken down."
The Ed Dunlop-trained six-year-old followed a famously narrow 2011 Melbourne Cup second to Dunaden with a bold third in last year's Vase behind the same horse, but Dunlop comes back with an air of quiet but elevated confidence after a good campaign at home.
"Really, it was this race last year when he proved he could mix it with top-class 2,400-metre horses and, as I've said many times, his form in Europe in 2012 shows he is a better horse now than he was then," Dunlop said.
"Second in a Coronation Cup, won a Yorkshire Cup and third in the Hardwicke: he has been there or thereabouts all year. His last two runs might not attract much attention on face value, but the way the Melbourne Cup was run, it was almost a prep race for what we are doing in Asia.
"He ran well in Japan, he was the best European. He was checked as he was making his run and should have finished sixth, even though he got slightly injured."
Dunlop, who already has a Vase in his resume care of Ouija Board and a Cup courtesy of Snow Fairy, is well aware that travel issues might have compromised the chances of some big-name rivals, but says Red Cadeaux has travelled "very well".
"He's actually a bit heavier now than he was in the Japan Cup and that's a sign he has enjoyed coming here," he said.
"He did come out of that race with a cut on his right hind tendon and cuts all over his leg, but they were superficial and he's tough and battle-hardened and knows his way around here.
"He may lack the class of some of the others but there are ifs and buts about them, and he'll give his best and if that's good enough, he'll be there."