THE Mike de Kock-trained Musir, beaten only a half length when third behind Xtension in last year’s BMW Champions Mile, looked in good shape after a sharp hit-out on the all-weather track on Friday, preparing for Sunday’s renewal.
Musir, under race-day jockey Kevin Shea, was only asked to quicken in the closing part of his exercise and comfortably ran his last 400 metres in 24.7 seconds. “We’re happy with him,” said assistant trainer Trevor Brown, “I’d say he’s in pretty similar shape to this time last year but from gate 12 he’s going to need some luck.” Musir drew barrier five last year.
Drawn immediately inside Musir are two of the other three internationals – King’s Rose (11) and African Story (10) – and their respective trainers are pleased with how their horses have settled in Hong Kong.
“King’s Rose is very well,” said Peter Moody, “her attitude’s great, the humidity’s not bothering her and there’ll be no excuses on the score of fitness. Now it’s just a question of her measuring up. As with any race, you just hope you’re fast enough.”
Saeed bin Suroor takes a similar view about the prospects of African Story. “He travelled well and physically he’s very good so we’ll have no excuses but it is a very tough race,” he said. African Story’s three wins from four starts in Dubai were all on the artificial Tapeta track but bin Suroor is optimistic about the transition to turf.
“Wet would be very good for him. He won on soft ground on the turf in France. The main thing is I wouldn’t want the ground to be too firm,” he said.
Ambitious Dragon will seek to banish the memories of a below-par effort in the G1 Dubai Duty Free at Meydan back in March. On that occasion, Tony Millard’s charge was unable to unleash the brilliant burst of speed that had taken him to five career G1/HKG1 victories, as Cityscape stormed to a four and a quarter-length triumph, with Ambitious Dragon back in seventh.
Ambitious Dragon was found to be out of sorts in the aftermath of that reversal and Millard opted to miss last week’s G1 AP QEII Cup in favour of the mile showpiece, in order to give the reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year extra time as he bids to turn around his Dubai form with the re-opposing Cityscape.
“I think Dubai took a bit out of him,” said Millard. “I’m glad that I gave him five weeks because he’s much better this week than he would have been last week. His work is right and I’m certainly happy with him. “It was a flat run in Dubai, which is understandable given that we discovered afterwards that he had a subclinical virus. He had a temperature the next day and just wasn’t himself.”
Pragmatism is clearly to the fore in Millard’s assessment leading into the race, with Cityscape the one everyone has to beat, in his eyes. “Cityscape will be very difficult to beat on Sunday, he has such a high cruising speed, he goes 1800m and he can sit on the speed. He was so impressive over 1800m last time and if he runs up to that Dubai form, and if he’s allowed to dictate, we’re running for places. “The draw’s (Gate 4) okay but I believe that tactics will play a major part in this because Cityscape is the outstanding horse.”