Cirrus Des Aigles, the horse that defeated So You Think at Ascot in the Champion Stakes, takes on the much hyped Hong Kong Derby and QEII Cup winner Ambitious Dragon in the 2011 $A2.5m Hong Kong Cup (2000m) (7.30pm Aust EST) at Sha Tin today.
The Corine Barande-Barbe-trained five-year-old has been racing since March but bookmakers still have the French galloper short at $2.80 behind Ambitious Dragon at $2.50.
Two other horses California Memory ($5.50) and Byword ($9) are the only ones under double figures odds.
Cirrus Des Aigles failed in this race last year after drawing poorly but has no excuses from stall two here.
“Cirrus did not need much work here as he’d done what was required at home before flying over,” said Jean-Jacques Poincelet, assistant to Barande-Barbe.
“His preparation went easier than last year because we did not go to Japan this time and the autumn in France was milder too.
“He finished seventh beaten by less than three lengths from stall 13 last year so there must be room for improvement here.”
Ambitious Dragon, has raced just twice since winning the QE II Cup in May.
His rider Douglas Whyte rates him highly.
“I will be looking to settle him and make use of his great turn of foot,” Whyte said.
“He is one of the best horses I’ve ridden.”
The Andre Fabre trained Byword, regarded a poor track worker, has pleased his connections all the same.
“He is not the kind of horse to impress on the gallops but I am pleased with how he has felt,” said Maxime Guyon, rider of Byword
“He’s a very relaxed horse and has improved each day.
“He has settled in well and he has a big chance.
“The ground here is perfect for him.”
The local’s second stringer is the Tony Cruz trained California Memory.
The trainer also runs Pure Champion.
“It was very disappointing last time that California Memory never got a clear run in his international trial,” Cruz said.
“He came back with a few minor injuries too but they were nothing to worry about, just little bumps as he tried to come between horses, and they’ve all cleared up now.
“He’s a very easy horse to train and he’s done very well since that race.
“He should be right this time, he’ll be taken back as usual and we’ll just have to hope the gaps come for him.
“Pure Champion ran second by a neck to Thumbs Up in that same race and he may have had an excuse too because Dougie Whyte thought he might have made his run a bit too early.
“I reckon he’ll be better off now ridden with a bit more patience.
“He’s had his problems which is why he’s taken a while to find his form in Hong Kong.
Trainer John Moore has $15 chance Irian and $126 bolter Jacobee.
“Jacobee is one of the most genuine horses racing in Hong Kong with only that one black mark against his name last time out.
“But given a quieter ride, he will be one of the dark horses in the Cup should things not go to plan for the hotpots.
“Irian is coming into the race off a perfect preparation.
“He was slightly under done last time and bottomed out about 50 metres out.
“He is now at his peak and I expect him to be right there in the finish