Leg wraps were the talk of the commentary booth at Sha Tin Racecourse on Wednesday morning as five horses from Japan’s talented cohort upped the ante ahead of their assault on Sunday’s (9 December) HK$93 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.
Japanese raiders tend to garner attention at track work, when overseas, with their colourfully coordinated riding jackets, tack and, yes, leg bandages. Japanese trainers are fans of working their horses in leg wraps: blue, purple, and eye-catching red and white alternate wraps were the order of this morning’s session.
“I’m not a fan of the purple,” was Hong Kong Jockey Club race caller Brett Davis’ take-out, declared with certitude over the track’s loud speaker.
Sungrazer’s four blue bandages gained approval, matching, as they did, his blue hood and bridle. The Deep Impact four-year-old, runner-up to Rey De Oro in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) last start and top-rated in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), quickened powerfully under the stands’ rail to clock 52.9s for 800m, which included the session’s fastest closing split of 22.4s.
“Sungrazer has come into himself now and I was very happy with his work today,” said assistant trainer Keiichi Asami.
Purple might not be everyone’s cup of tea but there was a lot to like about the horse wearing that disfavoured hue. Vivlos moved down the home straight in fluid locomotion, quickening across the turf with evident enthusiasm under her work rider. The LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) candidate clocked 51.5s (28.9, 22.6) for 800m.
Trainer Yasuo Tomomichi plotted the mare’s career-defining G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) victory 21 months ago and has given the five-year-old only two runs since she ran home second behind Benbatl in this year’s edition of that Meydan feature.
“This will be the last race of her career but she is still a very fit horse,” Tomomichi said.
“I was a little concerned because this is her first trip to Hong Kong, but while she is a bit restless at times, she is relaxed overall, the same as in Dubai. I think she likes being overseas.”
Vivlos will face Hong Kong’s brilliant miler Beauty Generation in the weekend’s HK$25 million Mile but Tomomichi is not fazed.
“The opposition is strong in the Mile, but she faced tough opponents in Dubai, too, and she always tries hard, so I am looking forward to the race.”
Vivlos led another talented mare down the stretch this morning. The Mitsuru Hashida-trained Deirdre - her blue bridle and bandages contrasting with Christophe Lemaire’s red jacket and cap - moved well. The LONGINES Hong Kong Cup runner, a dead-heat third in the Dubai Turf in March, clocked 51.4s for 800m (28.2, 23.2).
“Vivlos has been going out with Deirdre every day, the same as in Dubai, they have become very close and it helps them relax,” Tomomichi revealed. “Vivlos is in the condition I’d want to see her in before any race and I think today’s work was a nice finishing touch.”
Trainer Yoshito Yahagi had Mile candidate Mozu Ascot and LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) contender Lys Gracieux in alternately-placed white and red leg wrappings to match their flashy tack.
The two G1 winners moved at a sweet pace - the filly Lys Gracieux under Joao Moreira and the Frankel colt Mozu Ascot for Lemaire - clocking 50.9s (27.9, 23.0) through 800m.
“It’s their first trip overseas so they were a bit nervous but they have settled and seem to be doing very well,” Yahagi said. “We put them together this morning to make sure they had a good piece of work and they did. They are in very good condition.”
Japan’s big LONGINES Hong Kong Mile hope, Persian Knight, is likely to gallop on the turf tomorrow morning (Thursday, 6 December) according to connections.
Deirdre (JPN), picture Hong Kong Jockey Club