Jockey Darren Beadman has warned punters to expect a “significantly more advanced” version of Stanley Ho Hung Sun’s champion stayer Viva Pataca in Sunday’s HK$3 million Cathay Pacific International Cup Trial (HK-II) at Sha Tin.
Viva Pataca will put his credentials for the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s “turf world championships” on the line in this race, and Beadman yesterday declared the four-time group I winner to be “jumping out of his skin.”
“I thought he ran very well at the mile, first-up with the big weight (133 pounds) and since then, he’s made natural progress,” the champion rider explained.
“He had the barrier trial, then the race and all the subsequent work we’ve put into him has brought him forward.”
When asked exactly how forward he’ll be for this assignment at 2,000 meters, Beadman replied: “Put it this way, he’s significantly more advanced than the other day, and he’s as fit as John could get him for a race, second-up from a spell, at this distance, but obviously not quite as fit as he’ll be four weeks later on the big day.”
Viva Pataca is already an international group I winner, having landed the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (HK-I) at Sha Tin in April, following up with a second edition of the Champions & Chater Cup at 2,400 meters.
In each of those races, he defeated Vengeance of Rain, hero of the world’s equal-richest race, the $5 million Dubai Sheema Classic (UAE-I) in March. However Vengeance had the last laugh at the end-of-season honors—amid high controversy—by being named Horse of the Year.
Stablemate Viva Macau will also tackle the Cup Trial, after which Moore and Ho must decide which way they go with the pair as they prepare for international day Dec. 9. The alternatives are the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) at 2,000 meters, or the Hong Kong Vase (HK-I) at the metric mile and a half.
Beadman won on Viva Macau in the Ladies Purse Oct. 14 and the jockey believes it was a critical win for the horse’s confidence.
“He had a good confidence builder in winning a mile barrier trial before that, and then he showed a lot of courage in the race itself,” Beadman said. “That win suggested to me that he’s definitely turned the corner and going the right way.”
Beadman’s inability to ride two horses in the one race has led to his standing down from Viva Macau, and the former Aga Khan-owned racer will be handled this time by Manoel Nunes.
Douglas Whyte had first call on Viva Macau but refused the offer to stick with emerging middle-distance galloper Packing Winner. The Zabeel gelding has won five of his 10 starts and could scarcely have been more impressive when landing his latest assignment in a Class Two race Oct. 1, smashing the course record for 1,800 meters in the process.
“You couldn’t fault his form this season, and he had a fraction more in the tank when he won last time,” Whyte said Nov. 9. "On that basis, I don’t believe he’ll have a problem with the distance. I’m hoping we can slot in just behind the pace and if we can finish in the first three it might give us a ticket to the international races.”
Trainer Peter Ho Leung is also upbeat, hoping that Packing Winner can give him the most important winner of his career.
“There are a couple of unknown factors—he’s taking on a field of this class and he has never been over 2,000 meters,” Ho said. “But I think he will run well. I’m positive because he is improving, he’s in good form and I was pleased with his barrier trial last week.”