Moonlight Cloud a class above
Mark Popham previews the remaining Group One races at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on Sunday morning.
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Sha Tin, Hong Kong, Sunday, December 8, 2013
Gold Fun is the local star after three straight wins but he faces proven international stars for first time. Moonlight Cloud and Sky Lantern, who if they run near their best, should dominate this mile race. The two females are exceptional and they have both had tremendous success in 2013. Moonlight Cloud, two years older than Sky Lantern, is unbeaten in four starts this year, showing the most amazing acceleration, especially last time in the Qatar Prix De La Foret when beating Gordon Lord Byron, who reopposes and seems to have thrived in Hong Kong, three lengths. Her jockey Thierry Jarnet has learnt to leave it late, while trainer Freddy Head is pleased with his charge. The only doubt in his mind is his star's failure to show her form when eighth of nine in last year's Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita, California. That was Moonlight Cloud's only other long-distance trip but Head reckons she is more mature and stronger this year. There are more doubts over Sky Lantern, with the grey three-year-old filly going for this race as she is owned by the Hong Kong-based Ben Keswick. She has had a long and excellent season but, like The Fugue, was not at her best after the flight from Britain. While she too has revived, only one three-year-old has taken this race and that was a colt. Despite being a short-priced market leader, Moonlight Cloud seems to have most things in her favour.
The betting suggests this is the most open race of the four LONGINES Hong Kong International Races this year and I would agree. My brain has been spinning with all sorts of permutations after looking into the form and the trends. The locals are naturally keen on their hero Military Attack, successful in three Group Ones this year. Representing trainer John Moore and jockey Zac Purton, the five-year-old Oratorio gelding has been built up in two recent starts with this race in mind after a brilliant start to the year. But he does not look much value, came fifth in this race last year and is dawn nine. Two other Hong Kong horses are prominent in the betting, Endowing and Akeed Mofeed, and there was only a head between them last time, but again I suggest there is better value elsewhere. Andrew Balding is pleased with Side Glance but the form of his Australian victory does not look that great, while the Jeremy Noseda-trained Grandeur has yet to show this level of form. I am sticking to old favourite Cirrus Des Aigles, whose form against Frankel would suggest he is easily the best horse in the race if only he can show it in Hong Kong. There have been three past failures here but he can do better this time. Trainer Corine Barande-Barbe has been very upbeat and feels Cirrus Des Aigles has peaked at the right time of year after a slow start. He looks excellent value.