U.S. Stars Strive for International Respect

Trainer Jenine Sahadi figures Delta Form is a perfect fit for the Hong Kong International Races on Sunday.

"He's been all over the place, this horse," Sahadi said. "He was born in Australia, raced in South Africa, came to California, went to New York, went down to the Del Mar.

"He's had a zillion riders, a South African owner and a guy from Kentucky owns the other half. How much more international do you want him to get?"

A total of 54 horses from around the world are entered in the Hong Kong International Races program, whose four Group I turf races carry combined purse money of HK$56 million (US$7,118,703).

The marquee race of the afternoon at Sha Tin Racecourse is the Hong Kong Cup, a mile and quarter Hong Kong Cup HK$18 million ($2,310,654), that is the final leg of the World Series Racing Championship series.

Godolphin's Grandera, who already has clinched the World Series title, is expected to be the heavy favorite. The leading challengers include the U.S.-based Sarafan and Eishin Preston, from Japan, twice a Group I winner over the course.

Last year, Eishin Preston won the Mile, one of the three Japanese victories of the afternoon.

Delta Form, winner of the Del Mar Handicap on Sept. 1, is entered in the mile and a half Hong Kong Vase, which carries a purse of HK$14 million (US$1,797,125). Australia's two-time defending champion Falvelon returns in the five-furlong Hong Kong Sprint, with a purse of HK$10 million ($1,283,697) and being run for the first time with a Group I rating. Godolphin's Noverre is the leading contender in the Hong Kong Mile HK$14 million.

The other U.S.-based representatives are Sarafan in the Hong Kong Cup, Falcon Flight in the Vase and Texas Glitter in the Sprint. Mile contender Cayoke is owned by California resident Michael House but has never raced in America.

Grandera, a 4-year-old son of Grand Lodge, locked up the World Series title with victories in the Singapore Airlines International Cup (gr.I) on May 11 and the Irish Champion Stakes (gr.I) on Sept. 9. He also won the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. In his most recent start, Grandera was third in the Cox Plate (gr.I) in Australia on Oct. 26.

Besides Grandera and Noverre, Godolphin trainer Saeed bin Suroor has Ekaar in the Vase. Grandera, who was full of himself during a work bin Suroor supervised this week, is the brightest of the Godolphin stars.

"Grandera is my best chance, but he thinks a lot," bin Suroor said. "Still, the traveling suits him. He is a good horse, but the races are tough here, so he will have to be."

Bin Suroor knows the Hong Kong Cup well. He won the race with Fantastic Light in 2000 and was second with Tobougg lastt year.

Sarafan has had a hard-luck campaign for trainer Neil Drysdale. The 5-year-old gelding by Lear Fan won the Explosive Bid Handicap (gr.II) at the Fair Grounds in March and the Eddie Read Handicap (gr.I) at Del Mar in July. But he was third, beaten less than a length in the United Nations Handicap; was second, beaten a head while in close quarters in the Arlington Million; and lost by a nose to Falbarav in the Japan Cup on Nov. 24. Sarafan came directly to Hong Kong from Japan.

The 6-year-old Texas Glitter will be making the final start of his career in which he has won 11 of 36 starts for trainer Todd Pletcher. Texas Glitter has won his last two starts, the Calder Turf Sprint and the Hollywood Turf Express (gr.II).

The Hong Kong Sprint will be Texas Glitter's first race over a straight course. Pletcher's assistant Mike McCarthy said the horse easily adapts to everything new.

"I really don't think it's going to be a problem for him," McCarthy said. "I really think the five furlongs is his best distance, as well."

Sahadi noted that Delta Form had troubled trips while finishing third in his last two starts, the Turf Classic Invitational (gr.I)) and the Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (gr.I). She said her globe-trotting horse, owned by Gary Barber and the Team Valor syndicate managed by Barry Irwin, should fit nicely in the Vase.

"I don't think they're going to be cooking in this race," she said. "That's why I think a true stayer wins this race because he can quicken without the race actually setting up for him."