Bookies tipping Emperor Jones to reign supreme

THE word is that Emperor Jones is the one to get on in the International Cup. The John Gosden-trained colt forced Barathea all the way to the line in the Group Two Queen Anne stakes at Royal Ascot this summer over a straight mile and that form has been made to look pretty smart by Barathea's subsequent Breeders' Cup success.

Emperor Jones, who flew in to the territory last night in the final contingent of International horses to arrive, had been taken specially from Newmarket in England to winter in Dubai to help his preparation for the Cup. By all accounts that preparation has been going extremely well. The Ladbrokes quote is 6-1 as Emperor Jones, Australia's State Taj and our own Deerfield, trained by Neville Begg, head the betting for the Cup.

Mike Dillon, Ladbrokes head of public affairs and probably the best connected man in racing, said: 'The news filtering back to us from Dubai is that they are particularly happy with Emperor Jones and the way he has progressed since arriving out there. 'The Cup has been a very hard race for us to price because it was so difficult to find an outright favourite.

'But for us the most interesting overseas challenger is definitely Emperor Jones. 'Everything about his preparation in Dubai has been geared to winning the International Cup.' The prolific and exceptionally talented Newmarket-based Italian, Frankie Dettori, will be in the saddle and is sure to receive a very warm welcome back to Hong Kong.

One of the most interesting aspects about each of the International events is how Ladbrokes ante-post book will compare to the prices on offer on the local tote. With Dettori's presence on Emperor Jones he is unlikely to slip under the guard of local punters and it must be doubtful that Emperor Jones will start at 7-1 out here - which is what 6-1 with an English bookmaker represents.

This is not least because the home challenge for the Cup cannot be said to be so strong. It comprises Deerfield, who seems to need a bit of room in his races and is unlikely to be able to race wide and win at this level; Makarpura Star who has lightened off and may not be able to see out a strong 1,800 metres; the admirable Right Way who just does not know how to run a bad race, but is probably short of Group Two status and this trip looks to be a tad too far and Derby winner Super Fit who is useful, but has had his limitations exposed since last season's blue riband success.

So the betting advice has to be, contact Ladbrokes in London or Dillon when he arrives out here on Tuesday, and take the 6-1 Emperor Jones. Ladbrokes are also offering a fifth of the odds a place in each of the International races. IT was surprising not to see an inquiry into the performance of Flowers World at last Wednesday night's equitrack meeting. He is a natural leader and was racing over his favourite 1,400-metre trip on the dirt.

The stipes should have at least asked a few questions about his inability to get to the front so the public, many of whom were expecting Flowers World to lead, could know why he didn't. TWO of Saturday's Happy Valley winners, Debonair and Starbuck, are surely destined to join the International fray in 12 months time. Debonair annihilated his 975-metre field, bursting from the barriers and making every post a winning one.

It was a quite remarkable training performance from David Hill as the unbeaten Debonair, with four victories to his name, had only had three public gallops and one barrier trial this season. The first of those public gallops was on November 17. Clearly horses do not need to be as fit to run out 975 metres as they do to prevail over 2,400 metres, but it was still a fine effort from Hill whose had even his patience tested by Debonair. He has always known he had a potential champion in the son of Zedative and on one or two occasions it must have been so tempting to run him, knowing there were rich and easy pickings on offer.

But Debonair banged a tendon in an accident in his stables last season and Hill, taking a much longer-term view basically gave him a year off from racing. That paid handsome dividends yesterday as he cruised to victory in what is just a taste of things to come. A paddock inspection revealed that Debonair, who has a wonderful attitude to his racing and while looking a magnificent specimen, was some way above himself in terms of condition. So he will derive considerable benefit from the outing.

The same paddock inspection showed that in Debonair, Hill has a horse who, from the moment he is in the parade ring, just wants to get out and compete. He was fired up in the paddock, not in any crazy way, just in that way that he knew there was a job to be done. David Oughton's Starbuck, while displaying less brilliance than Debonair, showed an equally indomitable spirit in defying his preparation for a Class Three 1,800-metre event.

He'd had one trial and one gallop in the past two months, not to mention two courses of antibiotics following an allergic reaction to a knee poultice, yet still managed to win, and win going away on the line, on the strength of sheer class alone.

As he is only just graduating out of Class Three, it will be hard to get Starbuck qualified for the Derby where Class One-rated horses take preference. But the 1,800 metre Derby trip could be on the short side for him anyway. He was never going more strongly than on the line on Saturday, has heaps of natural improvement in him and when he is fully developed physically, he should be destined for top Class One staying honours.