Blake Shinn is “hopeful rather than confident” that Russian Emperor will stay the 2,400m trip in the Group One Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup this weekend.
This year’s Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000m) winner has been tested over 12 furlongs only a handful of times in his career, including when finishing seventh in the Epsom Derby when trained by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland and when running sixth in this race last year, and Shinn admits to harbouring doubts over his stamina.
“It’s a slight concern because he pulled in his last run but we’re going to pull the blinkers off him and I think that’s going to give him every chance to relax,” Shinn said.
“If he settles well enough, I’m hopeful rather than confident that he’s going to run 2,400m.”
The Douglas Whyte-trained Russian Emperor comes into the race at Sha Tin on Sunday after finishing fifth behind Romantic Warrior in the QE II Cup but Shinn believes that disappointing run can be forgiven.
“He had a setback going into the race, missed some trackwork and raced a bit keen throughout in a really slowly run race,” Shinn said.
“He was wide and exposed from about the 1,100m because the tempo was so slow and a combination of the lead up to the race and the way the race was run probably was why he didn’t run to his absolute peak performance.
“He’s trialled pretty well since. It’s been a recipe that Douglas has used before, trialling him down the straight in between. The trial was equally as good as he’s done in the past and he didn’t have to do much after that trial in the lead up to the weekend’s race.”
The Champions & Chater Cup features some proven performers and some potential stars and Shinn has identified the big dangers.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Senor Toba and Panfield, they are obviously the two stand-outs in my mind,” Shinn said.
“Senor Toba is an up-and-coming young stayer and looks a quality horse and Panfield has run against Russian Emperor and won the race last year. But on Russian Emperor’s best and if the rain is there, he’ll be there at the pointy end.”
With his departure to Australia looming, Shinn heads into his final big-race weekend in Hong Kong pleased that he did not have to pick between Sky Field and Cordyceps Six in the Group Three Sha Tin Vase (1,200m).
Shinn is unable to make the weight on Richard Gibson’s young sprinter but admits that if he could, his decision would be tough.
“I’m glad the decision was made for me in the handicap as it would have been a very tough call to make,” Shinn said.
“I wouldn’t have liked to have had to make a choice and I’m not sure which way I would have jumped. Sky Field is a [Hong Kong] Sprint winner and has been placed on numerous occasions at Group One level.
“He’s a seasoned campaigner at the elite level, while Cordyceps Six is a young star on the rise. He’s only a three-year-old and he gets a big advantage at the weights.
“He’s going to need all of that weight concession to beat not only a horse like Sky Field but some of the other quality runners, but he is an exceptional racehorse in the making.”