Falbrav, who figures to be the even-money favorite for Sunday's Hong Kong Cup (HK-I), drew post 5 in the 14-horse field Thursday morning at the barrier draw held at Sha Tin Racecourse in Hong Kong. The HK$18 million (approximately $2.3 million U.S.) Hong Kong Cup is the star attraction of the Hong Kong International Races, which also includes the Hong Kong Vase, Sprint, and Mile (all HK-I). The Cup is run at 2,000 meters (1 1/4 miles).
The draw resembled a game-show format, featuring a representative of each horse at the "wheel" of a Chinese Junk boat. In the center was a main steering wheel that was spun in the style of "Wheel of Fortune." When it landed on a horse's name, the representative selected a small replica of a junk off a shelf and peeled off the sail to uncover the post position underneath.
Falbrav, with an international rating of 126, is the highest-rated horse in the entire series. Trained by Luca Camani, Falbrav is a three-time group I winner in Europe this year and was last seen running third behind High Chaparral and Johar in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT).
The 5-year-old Fairy King horse, out of the Slewpy mare Gift of the Night, will be making his final career start in the Cup. He has a 12-5-5 slate from 25 starts. An international star, Falbrav won last year's Japan Cup (Jpn-I). He looked big and strong on the turf Thursday morning in a leg-stretching gallop. The stout bay also took a tour of the new saddling paddock by the finish line at Sha Tin.
The Michael Jarvis-trained Rakti could offer up the stiffest competition in the Cup, and the 4-year-old drew right next to Falbrav in post 4. A winner of the Champion Stakes (Eng-I) in his last start on Oct. 18, Rakti finished in front of Falbrav when second in the Prince of Wales's Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot in June.
"It's a tremendous challenge," Jarvis said. "I think we'll give him a race. Falbrav looks magnificent -- he doesn't look like he's over the top. Rakti's got speed -- he's a very fast horse. I think he could win a top-class mile."
Jarvis said Ratki has been pointed toward the Hong Kong Cup for the last two months. "We skipped the Breeders' Cup and Japan Cup," he said. "Hong Kong International Races day is one of the best days of racing in the world."
Denon, this year's Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) winner is representing the U.S. even though he was purchased by Fusao Sekiguchi of Japan before last month's Japan Cup. Denon drew post 9. He finished eighth of 18 in the 1 1/2-mile Japan Cup.
Over the last five years, post 1 has produced the highest percentage of winners at the distance at Sha Tin, hitting at a 17% rate. Post 1 goes to local hope Dr. More, a son of Danehill who is winless this year. Last year's 65-1 winner, the local Precision, drew post 8.
Japan's best hope, Eishin Preston, drew post 13. Eishin Preston has a three-for-four mark in Hong Kong -- his lone set back a fifth-place finish in the Cup last year.Hong Kong Cup (HK-I), 1 1/4 miles, turf, $2.3 million, Sunday, Dec. 14
Post Position, Horse, Trainer, Jockey
1, Dr More, J. Size, Shane Dye
2, Bright Sky, E. Lellouche, Dominic Boeuf
3, Weightless, P. Bary, Theirry Thulliez
4, Rakti, M. Jarvis, P. Robinson
5, Falbrav, L. Cumani, Frankie Dettori
6, Tigertail, Rod Collet, T. Gillet
7, Elegant Fashion, David Hayes, Gerald Mosse
8, Precision, David Oughton, Mick Kinane
9, Denon, B. Frankel, Corey Nakatani
10, Blue Stitch, A.T. Millard, Doug Whyte
11, Dano-Mast, F. Poulsen, Christophe Soumillon
12, Self Flit, I.W. Allan, C. Marwing
13, Eishin Preston, Shuji Kitahashi, Y. Fukunaga
14, Magnaten, Kazuo Fujisawa, Kent Desormeaux