After a pleasing track gallop at Sha Tin Racecourse this week Sydney horseman John O’Shea believes his bonny mare Sea Siren is in fine shape to take on a crack international field in the 2012 Hong Kong Sprint this Sunday.
A 13-horse field has been accepted for this year’s edition of the Group 1 The Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), Fastnet Rock four-year-old Sea Siren the early favourite at the Aussie bookies to take the lucrative first prize.
A triple Group 1 winner having won the BTC Cup, Doomben 10,000 and most recently the Manikato Stakes, Sea Siren was last seen running a brave second to Mental – a horse she beat home the start before – in the Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington on November 10.
“She was exposed there up the (Flemington) straight, the course isn’t ideal for her,” O’Shea said of Sea Siren’s most recent run.
“The winner came off her back and got the dream run in the race.
“I was happy with the performance. They cleared out from the others in what is traditionally a very strong race.”
After arriving in Hong Kong last week the $1.5 million earner was given a testing gallop at the course proper at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning over 1200m with a work rider in the saddle.
Wearing the blinkers she will have on come Sunday Sea Siren built up the pace slowly in her hit-out and finished her last 600m in a tick over 37 seconds, the final furlong her best time in just 11.25, with O’Shea now more confident than ever she will be a competitive force on Sunday.
“She looks happy and she pulled up great,” he said.
“She wouldn’t have blown a candle out.
“To my eye that looked like great work. She’ll probably do a bit more work on Thursday or Friday because she’s doing so well.
“Like most people when they come here they have a good time and she is definitely having a good time.
“She has put on weight and is very, very happy. Her coat is great and her demeanour is fantastic so we’re looking forward to Sunday.
“She’s been set for the race and with her brilliant gate speed, the 1200 metres around the bend is ideal for her, probably more so than the straight course.”
The main dangers in the 2012 Hong Kong Sprint field according to the pre-barrier markets include last start Group 2 winner at the track and distance Lucky Nine, runner-up in the same race (The Jockey Club Sprint) Time After Time, Japan’s Sprinters Stakes winner Lord Kanaloa and smart Grade 1 winning Japanese mare Curren Chan who ran second in the Sprinters Stakes last time out.
She may jump favourite but history is most certainly against Sea Siren as a visitor with nine of the past 10 Hong Kong Sprint winners all being locally-trained; the last Australian-trained sprinter to win being the David Hayes-trained All Thrills Too when the race was run over 1000m.
Still, O’Shea is keeping his chin up and is backing the form, fitness and class of his threatening-looking runner.
“We’re under no illusions as to the enormity of the task – but we’ve come here with a horse that is set for the race and we will be competitive,” he said.
“The strength of the Hong Kong horses is now world-renowned, and we’ve got to come and play them on their home turf. But she’s one of the better chances, and I wouldn’t have brought her here if I didn’t think she would be.”
While all of these things stack up in her favour O’Shea knows that a good draw when barriers are released on Thursday is imperative if things are to go off the way he plans.
“It’s going to be imperative to draw well, because it is such an even field,” he said.
“She has got brilliant gate speed. It is a huge advantage on a bend because she puts herself into the race and she’ll be in striking distance turning for home. She has got a good kick and she runs the six-furlong trip right out.”
Aussie punters won’t just have Sea Siren to barrack for at this year’s Hong Kong International Race Day but the Jake Stephens-trained Alcopop will also be there running in the Hong Kong Cup.
Like Sea Siren the Group 1 winner was given a run at the turf at Sha Tin on Tuesday morning, Australian jockey Craig Williams happy with the performance from the eight-year-old Jeune gelding who has been in career best form this season.
“I didn’t want him to do any more than slot into a nice rhythm and teach him where the winning post is,” Williams said.
“He felt very sharp and he was very comfortable going this direction.”
Alcopop, last seen taking out the Mackinnon Stakes, is paying around $12 in the Hong Kong Cup betting markets in Australia which are led by French galloper Cirrus Des Aigles who comes off a second to Frankel in the Group 1 Champions Stakes (2011m) in the wet at Royal Ascot back on October 20.
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