By Murray Bell
Drawing the outside barrier in a field of seven for Horse of the Year Vengeance of Rain in Sunday’s HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) has drawn polar opposite reactions from trainer David Ferraris and jockey Anthony Delpech.
And if the horse himself understands English, he’d best listen to his jockey.
Ferraris was surprisingly downcast as he walked away after Vengeance of Rain -- the world’s leading active stakes earner with a bankroll of HK$75.3 million -- found himself drawn outside his main rivals for Sunday’s renewal of the showcase event he won two years ago.
"That's a really awful draw," a languid-looking Ferraris said. "Drawing the outside of the field in any race is not good even in a small field. But it's a terrible draw from the 2,000 meters start here because you almost start on a bend. But what can you do?"
But the contrast with Delpech’s view could not have been more stark. "From barrier seven, I simply have more options," the four-time champion of South Africa beamed.
"That’s a much better deal than drawing barrier one and getting hopelessly stuck on the fence – no one would want that to happen.
"From barrier seven, if there’s a lot of speed on I can take hold and go back, which I’m happy to do. But if they want to stuff around and go slow, I can go forward and I’m not afraid to do that, either."
Delpech has been given a lot of belief in the go-forward option by his good friend and compatriot Kevin Shea, a proven big-race rider who handled Vengeance of Rain in a barrier trial win at Sha Tin, as well as at his last start when he rushed home late for fifth in the International Mile Trial (HK-II) Nov. 17.
"I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to take it up on him," Shea said. "He led in his grass barrier trial and he relaxed beautifully for me before quickening up to win it really well.
"For a horse who had never led before in either races or trials, the way he settled was excellent. If I was riding him, I wouldn’t have any concern going forward on him if the pace wasn’t suiting."
As far as the horse himself is concerned, Delpech doesn’t have a reservation. "His work has been outstanding, particularly his gallop last Saturday morning on the grass," the jockey continued. "I expect David will give him one more gallop tomorrow (Friday) morning and that will be it – he’ll be ready."
John Moore has always maintained that Vengeance of Rain’s arch rival Viva Pataca needs cover in his races, so he was delighted when Angela Leung, fourth wife of owner Stanley Ho Hung-sun, selected the three barrier for the short-priced favorite.
"Three is a just great gate for Viva Pataca. [Michael] Kinane can just jump out and get straight into the cover that the horse needs," Moore said.
Saeed bin Suroor was equally unfazed when Europe’s champion miler for 2007, Ramonti, came up with barrier four.
"He’s a horse who tends to go forward in his races so the barrier draw was never going to be much of an issue," the quietly-spoken Dubai horseman said.