Lush Lashes eased up the turf track at Sha Tin Dec. 10 and left rider Kevin Manning more than happy with the wellbeing of Ireland's best 3-year-old filly, who attempts to give her trainer Jim Bolger a second Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) victory on Dec. 14.
Having completed the last 400 meters in an effortless 24.4 seconds, Manning said: “She went through her paces nicely. One of her strong points is that she's very straightforward and can be ridden any way. We can have her handy or slot her in behind. She has travelled over very well and she hasn't lost any weight. She has a very strong constitution and you wouldn't know she's been on the go for most of the year.”
As a 3-year-old filly, Lush Lashes will receive between four and seven pounds from the rest of the field in her first test against male rivals.
The Australian international contenders Apache Cat and Douro Valley continue to please in their preparations with both horses in great shape and taking the eye of most observers.
Leading Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) contender Apache Cat had a "three-quarter spin" on the course with regular track rider Danielle Ellett reporting that the gelding felt "sensational' after his 800m workout.
Apache Cat zipped home his last 400m in 22 seconds despite appearing to be unextended. Ellett has ridden the horse throughout his career and was enthusiastic about how well he's done in Hong Kong.
“He really does feel great. He's very laid-back, very relaxed and takes everything in his stride. It doesn't matter to him whether he's going left handed or right handed and the change of environment hasn't bothered him,” she said.
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase (HK-I) hopeful Douro Valley looked a picture of health after an easy morning's stretch on the all-weather track. “He's super, really good," was the succinct appraisal of Paul Koumis, who has been looking after the Danny O'Brien trained gelding in Hong Kong.
Andrew Balding was at Sha Tin for a first look at his Hong Kong Vase chance Buccellati this morning, and was happy with what he saw.
“He has travelled well and settled in here, that's the main thing," said Balding. “He's won three of his last four starts and is on the upgrade, but this is a step up again for him. Frankly he'll need to improve again against horses of the caliber of last year's winner Doctor Dino, who I thought looked fabulous this morning on the track. But Buccellati is tough and has a big heart. I'll be very happy if he runs in the first four.”
The pace of this year's Vase may well be stronger than previous editions. Douro Valley is a noted for his pacesetting style and Mourilyan is expect to race more prominently with Herman Brown applying blinkers for the first time.
Another source of pace lies closer to home and that's Packing Winner. Conqueror of Viva Pataca in the Citi Champions & Chater Cup late last term, Packing Winner satisfactorily breezed 1200m on the dirt under jockey Douglas Whyte with the final split in 23.3 seconds.
Trainer Peter Ho watched the gallop and was pleased with his horse's condition. He believes he has a chance of figuring in the money on Sunday.
“His first up run was delayed but he wasn't beaten all that far when he was only at about 60 per cent in the Cup Trial and now he's much better off," Ho said. “Starting the season at 2000m and then going up to 2400m is a challenge, but I think he will either lead or sit in second if the Australian horse (Douro Valley) wants to take it up and he'll be staying on at the finish.”
Last out on the turf track Dec. 10 was a contender in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (HK-I), the American trained Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) winner of 2007 – Kip Deville. The striking grey had a leisurely gallop on the turf for exercise rider Michelle Nevin, Kip Deville will be racing on a right handed track for the first time, something that will be, according to Nevin: "no problem at all".