Is Morluc a 'Shoe-In' for Hong Kong Sprint?

From the Hong Kong Jockey Club
When Morluc finished second to Falvelon in the 2000 edition of the Hong Kong Sprint, he did so while running on tender feet. "That's not going to be the case this year," said trainer Randy Morse. "We've had Morluc on bar shoes ever since he arrived in Hong Kong. The shoes provide him with just the elevation he needs. Morluc's in much better condition for this year's race."

Throughout 2001, Morse has been pointing Morluc toward a return engagement in Hong Kong. "Last year, we missed winning by about this much," Morse said, holding his hands about a half-meter apart.

Morluc has won a pair of stakes races in 2001--the grade III Aegon Turf at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 4 (his first triumph ever in graded or group company) and the Nureyev Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, on October 5.

Morluc has not started since his Nureyev effort. "We entered him in an allowance race at Churchill in mid-November, but then scratched him," said Morse. "The reason is we wanted to come to Hong Kong absolutely fresh. I'm not sure what our future plans are for Morluc. We take his races one at a time, and, right now, our entire focus is on the Hong Kong Sprint."

Morluc was scheduled to canter around Sha Tin's all-weather track Tuesday morning, but Morse elected to put him on the main turf course instead. Although his horse has been here for a week, Morse, himself, didn't arrive in Hong Kong until Monday night. Perhaps he wanted to see how Morluc was responding to the bar shoes.

Meanwhile, Caitano, the Andreas Schutz-trained German challenger for the Hong Kong Vase (HKI) worked on the turf Tuesday, with Schutz's stable jockey Andrasch Starke aboard. Caitano, who arrived in Hong Kong from Australia six days ago, was having his first serious work since his arrival, covered a circuit of the turf track at a good clip.

Afterwards Schutz said: "I wanted him to work today, as he hasn't done anything since Australia, and he'll have another blow on Friday."

Olivier Peslier will ride Caitano on Sunday and explaining the change of rider, Schutz said: "Caitano has been around a long time, and Andrasch has ridden him so many times that the horse is getting lazy for him, so we've made the change. Caitano ran well in the Melbourne Cup for a long way, when Johnny Murtagh rode him but the ground was against him and he didn't stay the trip. He's in good form, and still has plenty of ability. We were very happy to get the invitation to Hong Kong after Australia, and I hope he'll run the sort of race he did in the Vase last year when he ran third."

Godolphin's challenger in the Vase, Ekraar, looked on very good terms with himself bucking and kicking as he came out for a canter on the all-weather track. Travelling head lad Sam Avis said: "He's usually like that, and he's in good form. He'll have a bit of a blow, probably on Friday, but he's fit, and we'll just keep him ticking over"

The Mark Johnston trained Zindabad again had a routine canter on the all-weather, as did Daliapour, Sir Michael Stoute's winner of the Vase last year.

Ivan Allan runs two in the Vase--Indigenous and Oriental Express. Indigenous is preparing for a remarkable fifth crack at the race, a race he won in 1998 in between finishing fourth on the other three occasions. The veteran stayer ran a creditable seventh in the Japan Cup last month but "should have finished fifth," according to Allan, owing to interference in the closing stages. "The Vase is a lot more competitive than most people realize but this time we are looking for Indigenous to do what he always does and that's give his best," the trainer said.

Oriental Express, a horse that has risen to the big occasion time after time over the years is rated "a good outsider" Allan. "He's been pulling a lot in his races of late but we have him settled nicely now and I'm looking forward to running another good race."

Oriental Express' last win arrived last May when he memorably won the ING Hong Kong Champions & Chater Cup (HKI) over Sunday's course and distance.