Santa Ana Lane will have to overcome a wide berth if he is to win the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The Freedman camp is not fazed though: “Better 10 than one,” Sam Freedman, trainer Anthony Freedman’s son, said after the world’s top-rated sprinter drew 10 of 10 in the HK$16 million contest.
“It’ll let him get into a nice rhythm and space to breathe. The draw doesn't really matter given his racing style and the relatively small field,” he said of the Australian raider, who will aim emulate compatriot and fellow ate closer Chautauqua, successful in 2016.
Connections of Hong Kong’s “Big Two” were happy enough. Beat The Clock will break from gate six and his old rival Mr Stunning from gate three.
“I think the draw in six is ok,” Beat The Clock’s trainer John Size said. “He will probably have to go forward a little bit because there’s not much speed in the race. I don't think it’s any disaster, it’ll be alright.”
The Frankie Lor-trained Mr Stunning had the upper hand against his foe in December’s G1 Hong Kong Sprint but has been behind Beat The Clock since in the G1 Centenary Sprint Prize and G2 Sprint Cup when Rattan swept by both to cause an upset.
Lor said: “I’m happy, of course; it will be interesting to see if anyone leads. We’ll sit behind maybe Little Giant if he decides to go on.”
Rattan will most certainly be finishing off late and drew nine, outside of the mares Viddora (7) and Nac Venus (8).
Rattan and Chad Schofield (right) defeating Mr Stunning (inside) and Beat The Clock (middle) in the Group 2 Sprint Cup, picture Hong King Jockey Club
The last-named represents Japan and trainer Hiroaki Sugiura’s representative, Hirokimi Tamogi, said: “I wanted to get more of an inside position. Number eight is a lucky number here in Hong Kong, so I hope we get some luck from the number. We will discuss the tactics with the jockey later on.”
New Zealand raider Enzo’s Lad will break from stall two.
Exultant is the Hong Kong high-weight in Sunday’s G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m). Trainer Tony Cruz was satisfied with gate six and had no worries about potential front-runner Time Warp stepping from gate 10 of 13.
“No complaints,” Cruz said. “I’m very happy with gate six for Exultant. It is smack in the middle and that will be perfect for him, he won't get trapped on the inside.
“With Time Warp, I’m happy to be drawn outside, it doesn't matter to him, he’s still going to go to the lead from gate 10.”
Cruz stated that he sees Japan’s Lys Gracieux as the danger. The five-year-old was runner-up to Exultant in December’s G1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m) and a cheer went up from that mare’s camp when trainer Yoshito Yahagi pulled gate four.
“Ideal draw,” Yahagi said. “Oisin (Murphy) said from four to six were the best draws too.”
Japan’s Deirdre, second on the G1 Hong Kong Cup at the course and distance in December will break from barrier five.
“Since the start is close to the first turn, we had hoped for an inside draw so we’re pleased to have got a decent draw,” trainer Mitsuru Hashida said.
The third Japanese contender, Win Bright, drew gate one, to the delight of connections.
“Very good draw,” trainer Yoshihiro Hatakeyama said. “I hope he will sit handily or better than midfield depending on how the others will run.”
Hong Kong Derby winner Furore and fellow high-class four-year-old Dark Dream will represent the Lor stable and they drew stalls nine and three respectively, while front-running G1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) winner Glorious Forever will break from seven.
“Dark Dream’s draw in three is good, he can jump and push forward from there and settle in the front four,” Lor said.
“Draw nine is ok for Furore, he drew 12 last start in the Hong Kong Derby, so this is better!”
Waikuku was runner-up in the Derby from a wide gate and was wide again when behind Dark Dream in a handicap at the course and distance recently.
Trainer John Size said: “I think Waikuku’s draw in eight is a good one for him. He can go forward a little bit from there and not get caught wide because there’s some decent speed in the race, so it’s a better race for him.”
The draw for the FWD Champions Mile saw the world’s co-top rated horse Beauty Generation draw gate two of seven. The Size-trained Conte is rated the best of the rest and drew gate seven.
“He’s got to be a chance of getting some prize money and if we get some of it we’ll be happy. There doesn’t seem to be too much speed there so he’s got to get over and get closer to the inside,” Size said.