Being the son of a teaser might be the quirky side of Tiberian’s back story but trainer Alain Couetil highlighted another aspect of the Longines Hong Kong Vase runner that horse players might want to take on board.
“Highland Reel, Talismanic – Tiberian is the same standard as them, and he is better now than before the Melbourne Cup,” Couetil said after the five-year-old strode out on the Sha Tin turf from the 1,600m at the morning trackwork session.
“We have beaten Talismanic twice, very easily, and the fast surface here will suit him well.”
Tiberian was privately clocked to work his last 1,200m in 1:20.4 seconds, his last 400m in 23 seconds and he put the final 200m behind him 11.15 seconds, a smart workout to go with a strong piece of exercise on Saturday that has identified him as a talented stayer in peak condition.
If breeding means anything, perhaps Tiberian shouldn’t be running in international Group One races, as he is the offspring of a stud farm teaser, the male horses used at breeding farms to excite broodmares before they are served by the commercial stallions. Think of them as the equine Chippendales.
But, from that humble start, he has risen to the top and been beaten only twice in six attempts in 2017, once in Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in July and, more eye-catchingly, in the Melbourne Cup last time when seventh.
Barrier 22 of 23, with his champion jockey Olivier Peslier having his first ride in Australia, proved an unhappy combination and Tiberian was a very brave seventh in the colours of Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock, who had bought a half share in the entire earlier this year.
“It was very tough in the Melbourne Cup, it wasn’t a good race and he had to do too much too soon,” said Couetil, who waved off any idea that Sunday’s 2,400m might be short for Tiberian coming back from two miles.
“I think the distance here is better for him than the Melbourne Cup. Actually, I would have liked to run him in the Cox Plate. For me, that distance would have been better, but the Australian owners have a dream to win a Melbourne Cup.
“We always had in mind to come here but, because we knew it is an invitation race, the invitation depended on how he ran in Melbourne.”
The brave run ensured a ticket, if one was not already likely, and travelling has been the least trouble for the five-year-old.
“He has a great attitude. He travelled to Australia the best of the 12 horses on the plane and he has travelled well to Hong Kong as well and really taken to the place,” he said.
“After this race, he will have a holiday but, in 2018, the plan is to race him again overseas in Australia, possibly Canada. Not Dubai, because it can take six months for a horse to recover from travelling there, but there will definitely will be more travel in his future.”
Peslier takes the ride on Sunday again and a win would draw him level with fellow French rider Gerald Mosse as the most successful jockey in Hong Kong internationals with eight wins apiece.