The lack of enthusiasm for last week’s Audemars Piguet QE II Cup barrier draw in a small field sounded like a 21-gun salute compared to the one-hand clap that accompanied the draw on Thursday for the HK$16 million Group One Champions Mile on Sunday at Sha Tin.
“Look, it’s a field of seven, and it’s not even a tricky start like the 2,000m, so I don’t think it means a lot,” said top trainer John Moore, who has won the race six times since its inception in 2011 and will send around favourite, Rapper Dragon (barrier five), and one of his main rivals, Helene Paragon (four), seeking a seventh. “There are a couple that look like they will be in front of mine, a couple who look like they’ll be behind us and I see my pair being three-four in the run.”
The draw for the field of twelve in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize over 1,200m was more problematic for some, but the bigger news on the race is that both Dundonnell (lame left foreleg) and Aerovelocity (lame right foreleg) are on vet watch leading into the HK$14 million sprint after routine examinations on Thursday.
Further inspections on Saturday and, if necessary, Sunday morning, will decide if they take their place in a Group One sprint that looked reasonably even before the draw and didn’t look a lot different afterwards.
Francis Lui Kin-wai, trainer of leading contender Lucky Bubbles was comfortable with barrier three but did sound one word of caution after pointing out that the likely early speed runners were in barriers seven and higher.
“Three is good as long as the outside horses show their speed and don’t just come across and crowd the horses on the inside,” he said, the memory still fresh on how that same scenario spoiled an inside draw for Lucky Bubbles and cost him the Hong Kong Sprint last December.
John Size has taken a leaf out of Moore’s playbook and saddles up four in the Chairman’s Sprint, a race he won with Grand Delight 14 years ago, and the yard got a mixed selection of draws with Thewizardofoz in one, Mr Stunning in four, Amazing Kids in six and Sun Jewellery in eleven.
“That’s what you’d expect and at first look there doesn’t seem anything remarkable about the draw, for my horses or anyone else’s,” Size said.
“These horses have raced each other quite often so they’ll sort out their regular spots, I’d imagine. Mr Stunning is drawn well and he was able to take advantage of some luck from a good draw to win last time and he is the type of horse who can do that. The one of mine that does look a little awkward is Sun Jewellery second from the outside but how awkward will depend on how the race unfolds and he could be ridden quietly from there and do well.”
Tony Cruz-trained Peniaphobia (barrier five) appears the obvious leader in the race early with Moore’s Not Listenin’tome following him forward from gate seven before taking a sit and perhaps his stablemate, outsider Dashing Fellow pushing forward from the widest draw.
“Actually, that’s a good draw for Not Listenin’tome. He won’t be cluttered up and I can see him getting a similar run in the race to the one he had winning the Jockey Club Sprint last November,” Moore said. “Dashing Fellow races up on the pace at 1,400m but isn’t reliable at the jump so we’ll see if they’re too quick for him at this distance if he doesn’t begin well.”
Providing all is well with Aerovelocity on race day, Paul O’Sullivan saddles up the war horse for the final time and wasn’t over-thinking his ten barrier.
“Zac Purton knows him backwards, he’s ridden him most of his career and I’ll leave it to him,” he said.