French trainer Corine Barande-Barbe is over the moon with the barrier four draw her 2014 Hong Kong Cup hopeful Cirrus Des Aigles drew for the Sunday showdown at Sha Tin Racecourse.
Four Group 1s highlight the race card for this weekend’s Hong Kong International Race Day including the HK$25 million Group 1 The Longines Hong Kong Cup (2000m), which is the richest race on the prestigious program.
Wearing the No. 1 saddlecloth and paying $10 in the latest Hong Kong Cup odds at Ladbrokes.com.au, veteran Even Top gelding Cirrus Des Aigles came up trumps with barrier four that pleased Barande-Barbe.
“Draw four is perfect for us,” she said at Thursday’s draw.
“We should get away nicely from there and find a good spot. We’re very happy with that.”
Also thrilled with the starting position for the horse, after his first win since a two length effort over Flintshire in the Group 1 Coronation Cup (2423m) at Epsom Downs back in June, was Barande-Barbe’s assistant Jean-Jacques Poincelet.
“It’s as if they gave away a place on the podium!” he said with a smile, indicating he rated the horse as the one to beat after the gun draw.
Hong Kong Cup betting markets are led by two top local hopes in Designs On Rome and the defending champion Military Attack drawn in barriers three and eight respectively.
Irish import Designs On Rome, now prepared in Hong Kong by Aussie expat John Moore, was last seen running less than a length away fifth behind Blazing Speed in the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup (2000m) on November 23.
Joao Moreira rode him that day when the horse worked his way from well back early to finish strongly and retains the ride for the weekend.
Moore has seven chances across the four Group 1s on Sunday’s race card and is happy for all of them, including Designs On Rome, to race up on the pace from good draws.
“I’m pleased with all of my horses leading into Sunday,” he said.
The only one of his Sha Tin contingent drawn in double digits is odds-on 2014 Hong Kong Mile favourite Able Friend, Moore unfazed with his wide gate.
Also not hitting the panic button just yet after a wide allocation is the legendary Hong Kong trainer Tony Cruz who saddles up California Memory (11) and Blazing Speed (12) from the two outside barriers in the Cup.
Veteran galloper California Memory, fourth to his stable mate in the Jockey Club Cup last start, is an outside chance at $26 odds to win but Blazing Speed is being kept safe in the markets at $10 after his victory that day.
“I believe California Memory still has a great chance and I’m very happy with him,” Cruz said.
“He likes to come from behind so we’ll be patient with him from this draw.”
Blazing Speed ran fourth to Military Attack in the race 12 months ago and looks fit and ready for another shot at the title this year having won the Group 1 Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) in May since then.
“He’s 100% fit and even though he’s got that challenging draw we can be waiting on the outside, handy even, and I don’t believe he needs to be covered up,” Moore said.
“He’s a horse that can wait even if he doesn’t have any cover.”
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