'Flying' Akeed Mofeed ready to stake early claim to Horse of the Year
Top honour up for grabs as pretender takes on incumbent in Hong Kong Gold Cup
Having been transformed from overweight, uninterested and sluggish into a lean equine machine, Akeed Mofeed will stake his claims for Horse of the Year honours in Sunday's Hong Kong Gold Cup after a smashing piece of trackwork at Sha Tin on Tuesday.
At the start of this season, trainer Richard Gibson was forced to fire up the powerfully built stallion with blinkers to spark extra effort in his morning gallops; the move proved a masterstroke as the fit-looking five-year-old won the Hong Kong Cup on International Day.
Douglas Whyte partnered the son of Dubawi in trackwork twice in the past week and says Akeed Mofeed now goes about his work with relish, without the assistance of headgear.
"He doesn't need them at the moment. He is mentally in the right place and he is working with the right amount of enthusiasm," Whyte said after the horse worked solidly over 1,200m with a stablemate on the all-weather track on Tuesday.
"He ran 22 seconds and change for his last 400m, so there's definitely no need for blinkers. He has mentally changed. He is willing and eager to get on with things, but in the right way - he isn't pulling or being keen about things.
"He is just willing to do the times and get things done. It was one of the better pieces of work he has done. The horse is just flying. He's thriving in Hong Kong and in the environment, so I couldn't be happier with him."
Last start, Akeed Mofeed hauled top weight to victory in the Centenary Vase with Gibson claiming his charge was "85 per cent fit", and despite there being lucrative overseas targets on the horizon, this week's stern workouts indicate the horse will be closer to his peak on Sunday.
"He wasn't at all 100 per cent tuned up, if anything he went in quite underdone for that last race, and it was a race that both Richard and I felt that he needed in order to get cherry ripe for the Gold Cup and his preparation after the Gold Cup. He came through that with flying colours and he won with a bit of authority as well," Whyte said.
A win in last year's Gold Cup was the launching pad for Military Attack's late season charge to becoming Horse of the Year - and a win over the reigning champ would make Akeed Mofeed a strong early favourite for the prize this season.
Whyte obviously sees Military Attack - coming off some eye-catching closing efforts - as the horse to beat, and is also wary of traps that can befall backmarkers in small fields.
Only seven horses will line up, five of them trained by Military Attack's handler John Moore. "Military Attack looks like he's coming back to what he's always promised to be and if he does turn up with his 'A' game he'll be a force to be reckoned with, but my horse is there already and he's peaking," Whyte said.
"You know what they say, the smaller the field, the bigger the upset. It's going to come down to draws and tactics and the pace of the race."