World class stayer Mount Athos will have the opportunity to record his maiden Group 1 victory when he contests the Hong Kong Vase (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
Mount Athos has stamped himself as one of the best stayers in the world with two strong performances in the past two editions of the Melbourne Cup, finishing fifth in 2012 and third in 2013, but only has two Group 3 victories and a Listed win on his racing resume.
The Montjeu gelding recorded his second win at Group 3 level when he started his 2013 racing season with a dominant nine lengths win over Mad Moose and Communicator in the Group 3 Ormonde Stakes (2696m) but failed to fire when stepped up in class in Great Britain.
He finished a disappointed fifth behind Thomas Chippendale in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2414m) during the Royal Ascot meeting and was never given a chance in the Group 2 Goodwood Cup (3218m) before returning to a semblance of his best form with a second place finish behind Harris Tweed in the Listed March Stakes (2816m) at Goodwood.
Mount Athos has exclusively raced at Group 1 level overseas, finishing twelfth behind Gentildonna in the Group 1 Japan Cup (2413m) in Tokyo after running in last year’s Melbourne Cup, and will be having just his fourth start at the highest level of racing on Sunday.
The five-year-old has not done a great deal of serious trackwork since running in the Melbourne Cup but had a strong hit out at Sha Tin on Saturday, running his final 400 metres in 22.6 seconds, and assistant trainer Charlie Henson said that he was very happy with the performance.
“That was exactly what we wanted from him; good, solid work,” Henson told The South China Morning Post.
“The horse is fit, but it was his first time on the turf here at Sha Tin and he seemed to handle the ground well.”
Zac Purton will ride locally-trained outsider Dominant in the Hong Kong Vase on Saturday but partnered Mount Athos, who will be ridden by Craig Williams on Sunday, in his trackwork on the weekend and said that the gelding gave him a good feel.
“We really let him down from the 600 and let him stretch his legs in the straight and he levelled out really well,” Purton said.
“He was solid to the line, very solid right through the line, as you would expect from a Melbourne Cup runner coming back to the Vase.”
The Fugue is currently favourite in 2013 Hong Kong Vase betting markets; with Mount Athos on the third line of betting behind Red Cadeaux at odds of $7.