Leaden skies and rain greeted the international contenders as they headed out
on to Sha Tin Racecourse shortly after 8:30 a.m. local time on Monday, seven
days ahead of their Group 1 engagements in Sunday's Hong Kong International
Red Cadeaux (Vase) and Gordon Lord Byron (Mile) broke ranks to work on the turf course, while the remainder did light exercise on the wet all-weather surface. Of the 27 overseas raiders, all bar Cirrus Des Aigles (Cup), Sea Moon (Vase), Meandre (Vase), Dandino (Vase) and Master of Hounds (Mile) ventured out of the quarantine stables.
Red Cadeaux, who missed by a whisker in last year's Group 1 Melbourne Cup, exits a rallying eighth in the November 6 renewal. The Ed Dunlop trainee reportedly covered his final half-mile of his turf gallop in 1:02.9, and looks to improve on his dead-heat third to Dunaden in the 2011 Hong Kong Vase.
"He's had a nice canter today with Sunday's jockey Gerald (Mosse) looking on," traveling head lad Robin Trevor-Jones said. "That will have done him the world of good. He's in great order and as fit as a fiddle."Defending Vase champion Dunaden cantered two laps in the slop. Last year's Melbourne Cup hero made a triumphant return to Australia to take the Group 1 Caulfield Cup on October 20, but was out of luck when 14th at Melbourne.
"You must be very careful with him," said Mathieu Brasme, assistant trainer to Mikel Delzangles. "He looks nice, but he is known to buck and jump without warning, and a few of his riders have ended on the ground!"
Vase rival Joshua Tree, who regained his crown in the Grade 1 Canadian International last out, cantered a lap on the all-weather track.
"As you can see he is full of beans," exercise rider Wayne Goldsborough said. "He's almost too well!"
Hong Kong Mile contender Gordon Lord Byron tuned up on the turf course, where
he toured his final half-mile in :50. The winner of the Group 1 Prix de la Foret
in his latest, the progressive four-year-old now ventures outside of Europe for
the first time.
"He did a nice piece of work this morning," said Andrew Hogan, trainer Tom Hogan's son and assistant. "He traveled well and it was just what we wanted. We're happy with his preparation."
Japan's Mile duo, Sadamu Patek and Grand Prix Boss, each cantered one lap on the all-weather. Sadamu Patek just denied Grand Prix Boss by a neck in the Grade 1 Mile Championship on November 18.
Yuichiro Shiomitsu, groom for trainer Masato Nishizono, commented on Sadamu Patek.
"The travel was very smooth, and I heard it was the easiest trip for some years," Shiomitsu said. "We will breeze him under jockey Yutaka Take on Wednesday, and depending on the condition of both horse and track we will decide which surface to gallop on."
Grand Prix Boss is showing signs of coping better, according to Koji Kubo, strapper for trainer Yoshito Yahagi.
"He was a little tense in the different surroundings when he was in quarantine at home, but the good thing is he is with many other horses here, so he is getting relaxed and his appetite is back now," Kubo revealed. "If he gets back to his normal weight, it will be a good sign."
Giofra cantered two circuits of the all-weather track. The filly scored her
signature win in the Group 1 Falmouth at Newmarket in July and most recently
checked in third in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera.
"We cannot do much on such ground," exercise rider Majorie Conte said, "and I need to find another pair of jeans for tomorrow now!"
Trainer Jean-Pierre Gauvin is hoping the prevailing unseasonal rainfall will end sooner rather than later after his Hong Kong Cup candidate Saonois completed a lap of the sloppy dirt track on Monday morning.
"That was fast enough on that sort of ground," Gauvin quipped, watching through binoculars from the trainers' stand as the Group 1 French Derby winner finished on a very easy canter.
"Saonois traveled very well and never left anything in his feed box -- he's a pony, really," his trainer added. "Yet I wouldn't like him to be too stiff tomorrow. I would rather favor the turf in the next few days. He should gallop on grass tomorrow and on Friday."
Gauvin arrived at Sha Tin last Friday and is staying along with his staff and the colt's owner Pascal Treyve at the Royal Park hotel near the racecourse. Coming from a harness racing background, Gauvin is used to covering all angles of his business, including riding the horses himself, which trainers seldom do.
Much has been said and done since the claimer-turned-classic-winner took the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) by storm in June. Yet the horse himself has not changed much.
"He could have become a bit stronger," Gauvin said, "but he has not grown. I took his measure the other day and only got him 3 millimeters higher than in the Spring. To be honest, I think his shoes made the difference!
"I would like the rain to stop to give us a better track (for Sunday). I worry a bit about that -- it is my job to be worried."
"He's nice and fresh today and we're really pleased with him," travelling head lass Sarah Denniff said. "Although he lost 20 pounds on the journey here he has already put most of that back on. We'll probably breeze him on Thursday, and the trainer will be here by then."
Australian veteran Alcopop, who garnered the Group 1 Mackinnon at Flemington November 3, also cantered a lap on the all-weather track.
"He's in good shape," trainer Jake Stephens said. "I know there were reports he lost a lot of weight on the flight, but it was more in the couple of days after he arrived. He had weight on him which he could afford to lose. He's only lost what he needed to.
"He's eating up well and he's now close to his ideal racing weight, which is perfect. He was kicking and squealing this morning which is a good sign.
"This is a strange environment for him but he's 'palled up' with Sea Siren (Australia's runner in the Sprint) and now he's doing well. He needs the companion, and I doubt we would have come had he been on his own."