JOCKEY Brett Prebble, denied victory by a mere half length on Lucky Nine in Monday’s BMW Champions Mile, is hoping to go one better in the APQEII Cup and is warming to the prospects of his mount Irian - ironically prepared by John Moore whose Xtension thwarted the jockey three days ago.

“His work is as sharp as it was before the International in December,” Prebble said, referring to Irian’s second to the highly rated Snow Fairy in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup at the end of last year.

“I really can’t fault him. I think he may have been jaded by that tough run in December so he’s taken a little while to find his best but I think he’s come back well now and he’s close to spot on. I’ll probably ride him again tomorrow morning and that may tell me more but I’m very happy to be riding him,” he said.

Prebble, nonetheless, is mindful of the quality of the opposition. “It’s a good line-up this year and we’ve got a very good local Derby winner in Ambitious Dragon who beat the Champions Mile winner so the form’s there. He’s high class, Ambitious Dragon, there’s no doubt about that.

“It’s always tough to keep going forward especially after the Derby and what goes up must come down....but good horses can do it and we all watched his trial the other day when he went super and didn’t turn a hair and that was behind my horse Lucky Nine. So I’ve got great respect for Ambitious Dragon,” he said.

Olivier Doleuze will ride Packing Winner, who ran third behind Snow Fairy and Irian in the CXHK Cup, and he made a similar observation to Prebble about the demands of that race.

“We might have emptied the tank with him that day,” he said of the CXHK Cup run, “so he’s been a bit flat but he is the sort of horse who can sometimes find his form again quickly. If there’s no pace, I’d be happy to take it up as he’s best when he finds the fence and can roll along.”

Darren Beadman, fresh from winning the BMW Champions Mile, is hopeful the evergreen Viva Pataca can, at the age of nine, improve his remarkable APQEII Cup record of two wins and two placings from five attempts. “He’s feeling really good. Super. There’s some life left in the old boy yet,” said Beadman.

“There was a time in the winter when he looked quite old and frail,” said Beadman. “Now he’s got the dapples in his coat and it looks like he’s strengthened up. The quarter crack he had may have had something to do with it, because when horses are feeling a bit of pain you know straight away they’re not happy.”

Beadman also pointed out that today’s draw is likely to have a strong bearing on the outcome of the race. “The 2000m is the trickiest barrier at Sha Tin, and drawing well can make a very big difference.”

Jeff Lloyd takes the ride on a third John Moore-trained runner Destined For Glory and he might just live up to his name. “I know this is a big leap in class but I believe he is a very promising horse,” said Lloyd who won on him on 9 April.

Pierre Strydom picks up the mount on Semos for David Ferraris. “It’s a great opportunity and I’m thankful for it. I know some others look to have stronger form but sometimes you just never know in a big race,” he said.

Herman Brown, trainer of Gitano Hernando, has arrived in Hong Kong and supervised the horse’s morning’s work. “He’s just cantering this morning,” said the South African. “We might do a sprint tomorrow just to sharpen him up, but he’s still fit from the Dubai World Cup and it’s just a matter of getting a bit of speed into him.

“A true run race on Sunday will suit him because I don’t think he has any stamina doubts. The track looks in really good condition, with a good covering of grass that should mean a bit of give, which will be in his favour. But if it rains between now and then I don’t think he’d mind that either. His last few runs have been on synthetic but I don’t think he’ll have any trouble adapting again to the turf. I notice he was only just over a couple of lengths behind Twice Over in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket. So turf isn’t a problem.”

Work rider Gillian Dolman had her now customary problems persuading the Michael Bell-trained Wigmore Hall that he wanted to start work. But once the idea appealed to him, the four-year-old son of High Chaparral as usual gave no further trouble.

“The governor (Bell) arrives tomorrow,” said Dolman, who will no doubt to glad to pass on the sole responsibility for the Dubai Duty Free third’s well-being she’s been shouldering since he arrived.



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