Overseas challengers look tough proposition: Kinane

SHOULD River Verdon and Helene Star prevail in tomorrow's showpiece International events they will certainly know they have been in a race - that much became emphatically clear after yesterday's cosmopolitan Sha Tin work session.

Mick Kinane, the multiple Irish champion and one of Europe's most revered riders, summed it up when he said: ''In Diamonds Galore I have a much better horse to ride in the Bowl than last season's winner Additional Risk.

''But then we have much, much tougher opponents to deal with from all round the world - and that looks to be the case in the Cup, too.'' The wraps came off Australia's challenge for the first time this week.

And the Lee Freedman-trained Storaia worked superbly under protege rider, Damien Oliver, in readiness for his clash with Helene Star in the $3.5 million Bowl.

Oliver said: ''He handled the course well and really picked up for me when I asked him to go.

''There was a cushion out there this morning, probably as the dew was still in the ground. I gather it gets a lot faster come the races which will suit my horse.

''He loves fast ground and wants to come from off the pace, so the speed in the race will also suit him.

''On his day he can beat anything but he can be a bit of a thinker.'' Storaia's hugely impressive gallop was followed by a scintillating piece from Rasputin's Revenge, who has been sent up for his clash in the $4.5 million Cup by much vaunted Adelaide handler David Hall.

The word here is to forget Rasputin's Revenge's last two runs and he is quietly fancied to test River Verdon tomorrow.

And so he should on his work. His 21.4-second final quarter was the fastest of the morning - not bad for a stayer.

Kinane and Dermot Weld, the wizard Irish trainer, were delighted by the form of Diamonds Galore as was Ian Shoemark who rode English hope Thourios through a blistering last quarter.

Weld said: ''I could have done with another month with him at home as I only got him in January. He arrived really well in himself but with a bit of a belly on him.

''But I was happy with the way he was before he left and I'm pleased enough with how he's settled in here. I'd be surprised if he didn't run a good race.

''We know there looks to be a lot of speed on, but we will play it by ear. I have the right man on top to do just that.'' Shoemark took Thourios home in 21.8 seconds for his final 400 metres without asking the colt a question.

''He can really travel,'' said Shoemark, who pointed out that in Thourios's final gallop, he gave 21 pounds and trounced one of Guy Harwood's star three-year-olds, So Factual.

At the big Newmarket meeting this week, So Factual stamped himself as a live 2,000 Guineas outsider with victory in the Free Handicap.

There was also good news for England's Cup runner, Mellottie, who appeared completely sound for the first time this week after working under big-race pilot John Lowe.

Lowe came back from the work full of enthusiasm and bubbled: ''I couldn't find anything wrong with him at all. Maybe he just jarred himself earlier in the week.

''To me he felt really good, a different horse to the one I worked before he won at Doncaster the other day.'' ''And I keep having the trainer's words ringing in my ears. Before I left, Mary (Reveley) told me that if the race was a couple of days after his final gallop at home, he would go very, very close.

''She's not a lady who ever says those kinds of things about her horses. You have to respect him after that.''