French superstar Dunaden is on target to win back to back Hong Kong Vases after a rousing gallop for race jockey Craig Williams at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning.
Dunaden is the $3.30 favourite for the Group 1 HK$15m Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m) at Sha Tin on Sunday and Williams reported that the six year old felt just as good as he did before winning last year’s Vase.
“He’s had a similar preparation to last year and the plan was to do similar work today and I was happy with him,” Williams said.
“It was his first big piece of work here, so I took my time and wasn’t worried about the clock.
“But he switched onto his right leg in the straight, finished it off, then pulled up having a good puff but recovered very quickly. He was on his wrong leg for most of the work after being in Melbourne, running the other way, but I think it was important to get him under pressure right-handed again, just to fine-tune him for Sunday.”
“You think back a year, the worry was that he might be too dour coming back from 3,200m to 2,400m, but the way he feels, I think he wouldn’t be out of his distance range in a 2,000m race now. He just seems sharper.”
Dunaden’s international record is outstanding and as well as winning in Hong Kong last December, the Mikel Delzangles trained stallion took out the 2011 Group 1 $6m Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington at his previous start.
And then Delzangles brought Dunaden back to Melbourne for the Spring this year and took out the Group 1 $2.5m BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) at Caulfield on October 20 with Williams bringing him from last to win in a fast run race.
Dunaden was also chasing his second win in the Melbourne Cup this year but in a slowly run race, the French stayer was unable to make up enough ground in the straight and struggled into fourteenth spot behind Green Moon.
Williams says $4.40 second favourite Sea Moon is the horse to beat after Dunaden finished second to the Sir Michael Stoute trained stayer in the Group 2 £200,000 Hardwicke Stakes (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Royal Ascot on June 23.
“We should have been much, much closer in the Hardwicke, sure, but I don’t think my horse has ever beaten Sea Moon so I can’t be totally confident we would have then – he’s the horse to beat,” Williams said.
Delzangles was also pleased with the way Dunaden came through his Tuesday morning gallop and is delighted with his preparation leading up to Sunday after a tough Melbourne Spring Carnival.
“He went around the turf track for a seven-furlong gallop, which pleased me. He arrived from Australia, like he did last year, and everything seems to be going according to plan,” Delzangles said.
French rival Meandre is also in the mix on the third line of betting at $6 with the Great Britain trained pair of Red Cadeaux and Dancing Rain at $10.
Red Cadeaux has taken a similar path as Dunaden coming to Hong Kong after finishing eighth to Green Moon in the Melbourne Cup and French colt Meandre hasn’t raced since finishing twelfth to Solemia in the Group 1 €4m QATAR Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe (1 mile 4 furlongs) at Longchamp, France on October 7.
While the William Haggas trained Dancing Rain is coming off a third to Sapphire in the Group 2 £267,505 QIPCO British Champions Fillies’ And Mares’ Stakes (1 mile, 4 furlongs) at Ascot on October 20.