Italian trainer Gianluca Bietolini said it would be a dream if one-time bargain buy Dicton can continue his meteoric rise and deliver prolific Hong Kong-based owner Robert Ng Chee Siong a Group One success in Sunday’s Audemars Piguet QE II Cup at Sha Tin.
Bietolini scooped on Dicton in late 2015, paying just €22,000 for the colt, after famous racing family the Wertheimers essentially discarded the son of Lawman and placed the underperforming two-year-old in a claiming race at Saint Cloud.
After some encouraging displays for his new handler, Ng bought in shortly thereafter, adding to his team of 40-plus horses in Europe, and watched as Bietolini plotted a path through France’s biggest three-year-old races with Dicton from his Maisons-Laffitte base.
Dicton won the Group Three Prix de Fontainebleau before an unlucky third behind The Gurkha in the Group One Poule d’Essai des Poulains and then placing behind Almanzor when stretched to 2,100m in the Prix du Jockey Club.
A Group One win at Sha Tin would cap the unlikely story and add all-important black type to what is a potential stallion’s pedigree.
“That’s the dream and if he can do it I would be that happy I could swim back to France across the seas,” Bietolini said.
“We were lucky to find him in a race like that, it is rare for a two-year-old from a big stable like Freddy Head’s stable in a claiming race. To think, 12 months ago we won that Group Three with him and just starting out, and now to end up in a race like this, he has improved so much.”
Bietolini was happy to draw gate four from eight where top French rider Olivier Peslier could cuddle Dicton away and conserve energy in the run.
“He will be inside horses that will go forward, so he can track them, and second time running over this trip, so it would be nice to get a lead into the race,” the trainer said.
“He has done most of his racing over 1,600m and at 2,000m we will try and save him for a run. We have a world class jockey with experience, and he knows Dicton very well. We will leave it to Olivier – I don’t need to say much to him, he will know what to do.”
Even though most of Dicton’s better runs have been at a mile, Ng’s European racing manager Rupert Pritchard-Gordon said the decision to step back up to 2,000m was based on the relative strength of Hong Kong’s milers.
“We thought those horses looked a little tougher,” he said, adding that it would help Dicton’s cause if rain sticks around until Sunday.
“He shows amazing acceleration on soft ground, it’s remarkable really, and even though he is fine on top of the ground as well, it might just help the others a little more.”
Even if Dicton cannot fulfil his owner and trainer’s dreams by winning, a big run should ensure a return visit for December’s internationals.
“We would love to win a Group One with him. He is very well bred, so we would love to one day stand him at stud in France,” Pritchard-Gordon said.