Ben Linfoot catches up with David Elsworth, Sylvester Kirk and Charlie Fellowes in his latest update from Hong Kong ahead of the HKIR at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Dance if you wanna dance…
One of the more intriguing European contenders at Sha Tin this weekend is David Elsworth’s Sir Dancealot in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint over six furlongs on Sunday.
The four-year-old has had another excellent season, winning four times from 11 starts in which he’s won £310,000 in win prizemoney.
That’s a good year by anyone’s standards, but he could top that up by £2,000,000 if he wins on Sunday and he at least fared well in the draw by landing stall five.
The Hong Kong and Japanese horses have dominated this contest since its inception and no British-trained horse has ever won the race, something the market thinks will be the case again this year.
Sir Dancealot is considered a 20/1 chance by Sky Bet, but Elsworth is optimistic he has a horse that can compete here.
He said: “It’s difficult to compare the two lines of form. The Hong Kong sprinters are pretty good I’m sure, but there aren’t any strong formlines between their sprinters and ours.
“Local loyalty will probably tell you they are stronger and they well may be but we won’t do them any favours, we’ll have to see won’t we.”
One question mark hanging over Sir Dancealot is the trip.
He’s won twice from 12 attempts over six furlongs in his career, his latest victory at the distance coming in June this year when he won on the nod at Hamilton when sent off the odds-on favourite.
So the big question is, has he got the pace for a Hong Kong Sprint?
“I believe he probably has,” says Elsworth. “Over seven he comes from off the pace and a strong pace at six is good enough.
“I think we have a good sporting chance. I don’t want to tempt prophets by going over the top but the horse is fit and well, it’s a softer option than the mile, I wish it were seven but we’ll have to go and try at six won’t we.”
It’ll be tough for Sir Dancealot on his 12th start of a season that started back in April, but his trainer still feels he’s physically in good shape ahead of his final challenge of the year.
“He’s settled in very well, he’s enjoying his holiday I think,” he said.
“Particularly he’s got a strong constitution, he’s travelled very well and he’s actually put weight on the last day or so while he’s been here.
“He’s doing a little bit, the signals are encouraging but we’re not getting over optimistic.”
The John Size quartet, headed by Hot King Prawn, and Frankie Lor’s Mr Stunning, form a potentially lethal quintet of hardened local speedsters, but, like Elsworth says, it’s difficult to weigh up Sir Dancealot’s true position in the pecking order.
One thing that looks certain is a strong pace which will suit and he looks sure to finish well, too. Elsworth will just be hoping that he’s got the speed to keep up with the local hotshots in the early stages.
Like I said, it’s intriguing.
Salouen bids to end year on a high
It’s been a frustrating old season for Salouen and Sylvester Kirk.
Six defeats from six starts paint a bleak picture on the face of it, but he’s run some fantastic races in defeat, including his sixth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last time and his earlier third in France behind Waldgeist in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud.
The one that got away, though, was that Coronation Cup defeat to Cracksman at Epsom, where he led everywhere bar the line and there was just a head between the pair in a desperate finish.
“He got the run of the race, he nearly slipped the field and he almost got home,” says Kirk. “He was unlucky but he ran a blinder.
“He should’ve been closer [in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe], it would’ve been nice if he got in the prizemoney for us, it’s just a pity he missed out.
“As soon as Oisin [Murphy] got off it was Hong Kong here we come. He made up our minds to keep going until December.”
It’s late in his campaign but the good thing is he’s been racing sparingly and he comes into the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase a relatively fresh horse after just those six runs.
And that has helped him as he gets to grips with Hong Kong, the furthest he has been away from home.
“The horse has settled in really well importantly,” Kirk says.
“He’s taken everything in his stride, he’s still got his summer coat and I’m really pleased with him.
“I’m a bit worried about the ground, it’s pretty firm out there. It would be nice if we got some rain Sunday morning.”
A significant going change looks unlikely, even with a bit of rain forecast, but 8/1 odds about Salouen tell you he’s been found a winnable opportunity at Group One level on the balance of his form this year.
It would be some way to break his duck for the campaign.
Fellowes happy with fresh Prince
Prince Of Arran is a much bigger price than Salouen for the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase with some English bookies dangling 33/1.
He’s another one that’s had a fairly light campaign having had just six starts since Meydan and three of those came in Australia recently where he won the Lexus Handicap at Flemington three days before he was third in the Melbourne Cup.
Such exploits might’ve taken the edge off him, but trainer Charlie Fellowes believes that is very much not the case.
“He’s thrived all year and I’m not worried about him having had a long year, I think if anything he’s improved, improved and improved,” he says.
“He only does as much as he has to. When you watch the Lexus and he hits the front he puts his head to one side and he’s waiting for company.
“That helps me as I know he’s not going to put 100 per cent in every time and we don’t sort of bottom the tank.
“He had a hard race in the Melbourne Cup and he will have bottomed out then, but he’s had a month to get over that now and the change of scenery will have freshened him up.
“I see no reason why he can’t run a big race again.”
Given he stays two miles well, a strong pace at a mile-and-a-half will suit Prince Of Arran, a horse that has blossomed on his travels throughout the year from Meydan to Belmont Park to Flemington.
But the final stop on his world tour, for this year at least, is Sha Tin, where he’ll bid to further advertise his young trainer’s burgeoning talent once again.
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