Schutz content to trust in fresh Eagle
Germany's top trainer, Andreas Schutz, has yet to win an international event in Hong Kong but is just as sure he has never gone away unhappy with his results.
'I have had quite a few runners, but whether I have come with one runner or a number, I don't think I've ever gone home without stake money,' said Schutz, whose hopes on Sunday will rest with a sole representative in Hong Kong Mile entrant, Eagle Rise. 'He looked all right today in his work. He is not normally a horse who needs a lot, but his last race was five weeks ago and I thought he needed that today. I'll see how he is, but my feeling is that he will probably need another blow on Friday.'
A first glance at his form begs the question whether the Danehill horse can perform on the firm ground he is likely to find on Sunday, but for Schutz the condition of the surface is not the query.
'He has raced mostly on soft ground so perhaps it looks like that is his preference, but I don't think he has any favourite ground,' the trainer explained. 'He is bred for faster ground and that doesn't concern me at all. My greatest problem is whether he is good enough to be a true Group One horse.'
Eagle Rise was a star two-year-old in Germany but didn't really measure up last year in his classic season.
'We aimed high with him as a three-year-old,' Schutz explained. 'We asked for too much and he was disappointing. But he had a quiet winter period, came back in smaller competition and has raced very well, winning three races including his last two in Germany and then Rome in Group Two races.'
Cologne-based Schutz, 36, a former successful amateur jockey, had a bitter-sweet start to his training career when he took over training the team of his legendary father Bruno in 1998, but it was not the most pleasant succession. His father had been diagnosed with a lung illness which eventually led to his death in June, 2000.
Dropped in at the deep end with a team of 150 horses, Schutz did his father proud and won the German Derby with Samum, one of the last horses his father had selected as a yearling, but sadly Bruno Schutz never lived to see the race that was run just days after he passed away.
Andreas Schutz has dominated the German scene ever since.
His first HKIR was a disappointment when one of his runners, Waky Nao, finished well back behind Jim And Tonic in the 1998 Hong Kong Bowl.
The Group One winner became ill on the trip, raced well below expectations and never raced again, but the episode did not leave Schutz discouraged about long-range international competition as he has vigorously pursued races in Hong Kong and around the globe since, greatly advancing the cause of German racing in the process.
Horses like Samum, Caitano, Elle Danzig and most recently Singapore International Airlines Cup winner, Epalo, have blazed a trail of revelation for the German breed in serious competition.
One of the lessons he has gained along the way is that there is as much to be said for having the fresh legs as the best engine.
'I have brought horses in the past which were probably better chances, but always at the end of a long season,' Schutz pointed out. 'They were on the way down but this horse is on the way up. He hasn't run in a Group One so it's difficult to know if he is good enough. I don't know if he could win a top Group One at the Arc meeting in Paris. But now I look at the other horses here and I see some who have had a tough year and I see my horse is very happy. Sometimes it is the fresh horse who wins, not the best one.'