California can make Cup history
Ian Ogg previews Sunday morning's Longines sponsored Hong Kong Cup card from Sha Tin.
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Familiarity may have bred contempt for the fox and the lion but prior to passing the time of day together in Aesop's fable, the lack of familiarity caused the fox to keep his distance and, for many punters, the lack of familiarity with a number of the runners on Sunday's Longines sponsored card at Sha Tin may also cause them to keep their distance.
There's no need for that in this day and age though with information at the finger tips as well as live coverage of the action; besides there are no fewer than nine of the 13 Longines Hong Kong Vase runners trained in Europe which is a ratio we'd more commonly expect at Royal Ascot or Longchamp.
As well as familiar faces on the racecourse, Kate Winslet will be presenting souvenirs to the winning connections in her role as an ambassador for the sponsors and finding a decent bet or two shouldn't prove to be a titanic task.
The raiders have dominated the Vase with no local having won the race this millennium and we can get the day off to a fine start by siding with Bayrir.
Dunaden won the race 12 months ago and, although Mikel Delzangles is upbeat after defeat in the Melbourne Cup the comments of owner Sheikh Fahad Al-Thani that 'his work times since have been a couple of seconds slower than last year" has to be a concern for those thinking about going in at a short price.
Sea Moon has been eclipsed on all four occasions he's been tried in a Group One and he's a fraction of the price of Alain de Royer-Dupre's runner who was only a couple of places behind him in the Arc.
A line can be put through the run in the Paris mud and, although the three year old has something to find on the formbook, he looks capable of making further progress granted more suitable conditions.
He's a proven traveller having already landed the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington and his connections know exactly what it takes to win this race having saddled Daryakana to lift this prize as a three year old in 2009.
The Hong Kong Cup itself has also proved to be a happy hunting ground for the visitors with only three Hong Kong horses in the last 15 years able to keep the overseas runners at bay.
They include last year's winner California Memory who will undoubtedly be popular in the absence of Cirrus Des Aigles and there's every reason to believe that the grey can follow up.
Carlton House has done little on the racetrack to justify his once lofty reputation while only two three year olds have managed to pick up this prize since it was first run in 1988 which counts against Saonois.
Fellow French raider Giofra is interesting but isn't ideally drawn and could get too far back off the pace whereas Matthew Chadwick races from the same gate as last year.
His mount is peaking at exactly the right time and can make history by becoming the first dual winner.
The locals have dominated the Mile of late with Hat Trick the last raider to lift the spoils in 2005 for Japan but there was no shortage of international success prior to that with victories for Bart Cummings, Sir Michael Stoute, John Hills and Francois Doumen.
The latter saddles one of the bigger dangers to reigning Horse Of The Year Ambitious Dragon and Glorious Days although you might wonder why he'd bother after Glorious Days' handler John Size commented: "On his day, if Ambitious Dragon puts in a big performance, he's unbeatable, so we just have to ride our luck and hope that we're good enough."
The two home favourites may well have the race between them but Siyouma looks capable of hitting the frame with the Japanese pair looking short of the required class and the race appearing to lack depth.
Gerald Mosse was on board Jim And Tonic when he scored for Doumen in 1998 and the veteran jockey is full of confidence about the mare who connections believe is still improving.
"Francois loves this meeting and I've been telling him that she will be suited here. But he knows that, too. We've had success together before here and nothing would make me happier than to do it again," the jockey says.
"He's a great trainer and he's done a wonderful job with Siyouma. She's still not fully mature and she's definitely getting better each time she races. She's learning more about how to compete and I think she can be at the top for a while."
"She is flexible in the way you can ride her and she can go on any ground, so she's the right kind of horse you need for an international race in Hong Kong. She's the one for me" he added.
I can't profess to knowing a great deal about the sprinters but, with the sole exception of the South African JJ The Jet Plane, victory in this race has gone to a member of the home team every year.
There may be no Silent Witness nor Sacred Kingdom but Lucky Nine is back to defend his crown and in a race where repeat victories have been commonplace, you could do worse than taking the former Andy Oliver trained five year old to provide jockey Brett Pebble with his fourth win in the race.