SUNDAYS Gr1 Champions Mile at Sha-Tin will be Variety Club’s first start for Mike de Kock, who has won three International G1 races in Hong Kong, but this $12-million event is not yet among them.
Mike has had five previous shots at the race with Musir’s third place in 2011 being his best result. Then again, Hong Kong-trained horses have won each of the nine editions since the race was opened to overseas runners. Indeed, Musir’s effort matched the best ever placing by an overseas horse in the contest.
Anton Marcus is happy with Variety Club’s preparation in Hong Kong and wll be hoping for a scene like the one above seconds after the Gr2 Godolphin Mile. (Andrew Watkins).
“Variety Club is a better miler than Musir, this is the best chance we’ve had in this race so far,” Mike said before his departure for Hong Kong on Wednesday.
He inspected Variety Club on Friday morning in the quarantine stables and advised that the five-year-old did not require any further work beyond the trotting ring within the quarantine compound. Variety Club did not come out on either of the main tracks.
On Thursday, assistant trainer Trevor Brown was trackside to oversee Variety Club’s final piece of work over 800m and he said: “Anton Marcus seemed very happy. We didn’t want anything too over the top, just a little piece of work, a nice gallop and that’s what we got. He’s in good shape. We were a little concerned that he had to travel here by himself, later than his two stablemates, last week, but he’s taken it well, he’s a true professional.”
The experienced Marcus has forged a reputation as a man for the big occasion with numerous G1 triumphs and five champion jockey titles in South Africa. He has also ridden in Hong Kong, chalking up a total of 144 winners in six racing seasons. It is he who will have to negotiate a route to victory from gate 12 of 14, a berth wider than most would prefer.