By Bob Kieckhefer
Cirrus des Aigles is a rather commonly bred 5-year-old gelding and, after finishing seventh in last year's Hong Kong Cup (HK-I), few would have given him a chance for international stardom. Yet, he and a few others in the Dec. 11 races could achieve just that with a good showing.
The son of Even Top, gelded when he proved unruly, had showed only flashes of ability on the world stage before this year. Then, after minor placings in a few group races in France, he began to win, picking up the top check in three straight group II and group III events.
People started to notice when Cirrus des Aigles came home second to Byword in the Prix Dollar (FR-I) at Longchamp. But they were not ready for his invasion of Champions Day at Ascot in mid-October. There, just minutes after Frankel validated his reputation as one of the best blue-blood champions by winning the Champions mile event, upstart Cirrus des Aigles knocked down the Champion Stakes (Eng-I), defeating superstar So You Think.
Was it a fluke or is Cirrus des Aigles rounding into his peak form? Tune in again after the Cup and see if he has again bested his better-bred bretheren.
The same question could be put to the Melbourne Cup duo. Their Australian engagement was exciting, yes. But the quality of the competition will be higher in the Vase. If either of them again rises to the occasion, so will their reputation.
Ditto for the likes of Sarah Lynx, who has run credibly without winning often in her native France, then jumped up to win the Canadian International (Can-IT) at Woodbine in October before finishing well up the track in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) last time out. Did the 4-year-old filly simply relish the yielding Woodbine course? Can she repeat over Sunday's expected good-to-firm going?
A few others are in similar situations – which shows why year-end meetings such as Hong Kong's are so important as a last chance to finish the season with a good impression.