Prolific Japanese trainer Mitsuru Hashida and legendary jockey Yutaka Take have combined for countless wins in their homeland but the duo are yet to strike a blow together overseas.
The pair is hoping to change that anomaly come Sunday when they take their classy mare Deirdre into the Group One FWD QE II Cup at Sha Tin.
Hashida returns to Hong Kong with his five-year-old after running an unlucky second in December’s Group One Hong Kong Cup, which was won by tearaway leader Glorious Forever over the same 2,000m trip.
The 66-year-old says he has come back hungry for success with Deirdre after finishing fourth behind superstar mare Almond Eye in last month’s Group One Dubai Turf (1,800m).
“There is still one thing with her, she has not won abroad yet,” Hashida said.
“We have travelled many times but never come first so that is one of the reasons we are coming back.
“This is our second time here, we learned a lot from the last race so maybe this time we will have better luck.”
While Hashida and Take will run into Hong Kong’s best middle distance runners in Exultant, Glorious Forever, Pakistan Star and Furore, they will also have to beat their own in Lys Gracieux and Win Bright.
After clashing with fellow mare Lys Gracieux five times in their homeland, Deirdre currently has bragging rights, having beaten her rival home three times.
“Sometimes we win and sometimes they win, it is pretty even so we are doing our best all of the time and it depends on how the race goes,” Hashida laughed.
Win Bright also got the better of Deirdre during their last start in Japan, winning over 1,800m.
Having racked up 697 wins in Japan, Hashida said he was excited to have Take in the saddle for the first time on Deirdre.
Take stands unparalleled in Japanese racing having racked up more than 4,000 winners and 18 JRA jockeys’ titles.
Now 50, Hashida said he marvelled at Take’s longevity in the saddle.
“We have been working together for a long time, Yatake and I,” he said. “We have both won races abroad as well but we have never won together.
“Maybe this time we can get that picture taken together, we have won many in Japan together.”
Having made a flying visit to Hong Kong to ride the mare, Take said he was impressed with how well she had settled in to life at Sha Tin.
“It was my first ride on Deirdre this morning. She is really easy to ride, she has settled in well and is in good condition,” he said.
“She really likes travelling, she is a proven shipper and has not had any travel sickness from Dubai.”
It comes as local hope Southern Legend has been officially withdrawn from the race with trainer Caspar Fownes looking to go straight into next month’s Kranji Mile at Singapore to defend his title. Jockey Chad Schofield had been booked to ride.
Doubt also hovers over gun Australian sprinter Viddora, who was lame in her right hind leg after trackwork on Wednesday morning.
Officials believe a decision will be made on Saturday as to whether the dual Group One winning mare races in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200m).