Victor Harbour horseman Jake Stephens is preparing to saddle up his first ever international competitor with Mackinnon Stakes champ Alcopop set to take on a field of star stayers in the Hong Kong Cup 2012 at Sha Tin Racecourse this Sunday, December 9.
It is a long way from South Australia to Hong Kong and Stephens is thrilled to have been able to get his veteran Jeune eight-year-old Alcopop over for the lucrative Group 1 The Longines Hong Kong Cup (2000m), one of four elite level features on the Hong Kong International Race Day card.
In career best for this time in Alcopop has run top three in their past five starts in Melbourne all at Group 1 level.
After a second to Ocean Park in the Caulfield Stakes (2000m) then went up to the mile and a half and surprised many when runner-up to last year’s Melbourne Cup champ Dunaden in the Caulfield Cup as a $15 chance.
They finally broke their maiden Group 1 status at career start number 33 on November 3 when leading Australian hoop Craig Williams guided them to a smart victory over Glass Harmonium and Ocean Park in the Mackinnon Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on Victoria Derby Day.
Now Stephens hopes to conquer the overseas arena, Alcopop one of 13 current entries for the Hong Kong Cup field 2012.
There were talks earlier that Alcopop had lost a substantial amount of weight travelling from Australia to Hong Kong, but Stephens has dismissed claims that the horse was not up to Sunday’s challenge and that the weight loss was anything major.
“He’s in good shape,” Stephens said on Monday.
“I know there were reports he lost a lot of weight on the flight but it was more in the couple of days after he arrived.
“He had weight on him which he could afford to lose. He’s only lost what he needed to.
“He’s eating up well and he’s now close to his ideal racing weight, which is perfect.
“He lost really what he needed to lose. He was thriving in Melbourne during the spring and the more racing he had, the more he put on weight.
“Between the Caulfield Cup and the Mackinnon Stakes he put on 13.5 kilos and then another 10 kilos after the Mackinnon. So losing some weight on the trip over hasn’t been a problem.”
Alcopop had a proper look at the all-weather track at Sha Tin yesterday and pleased Stephens with the work they did.
“He was kicking and squealing this morning which is a good sign,” Stephens said.
“This is a strange environment for him but he’s ‘palled up’ with (Hong Kong Sprint hopeful) Sea Siren and now he’s doing well.
“He needs the companion and I doubt we would have come had he been on his own.”
In the latest Hong Kong Cup odds at the Aussie bookmakers Alcopop is paying around $12 with markets firmly led by French star Cirrus Des Aigles ($2.70) coming off a second to the world’s best racehorse Frankel in the Group 1 Champion Stakes (2011m) at Royal Ascot in Britain.
Other notable hopefuls in the mix this year include local six-year-old California Memory last seen winning the Group 2 HK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) on November 18, and young French colt Saonois.
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