Hong Kong International races challenges for Australian trio

Chris Waller has continued his maintenance program with Preferment, Kris Lees is wishing for rain for Lucia Valentina and David Hayes has concluded that going forward is the only option for Criterion in Sunday’s Hong Kong International races.

All three Australian trainers have obstacles to overcome when they tackle some of the world’s best in a race day regarded as one of the finest on the international calendar.

For Waller the concern is whether his horse still has a run in him after a Melbourne Cup campaign that proved inconclusive.

“In theory he had an easy run in the Melbourne Cup, he ran into some interference and never got into it, so we don’t know what would have happened,” Waller said.

Preferment runs in the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2400m), and at Sha Tin on Friday he looked fresh enough and fit enough to be a contender.

“It’s really just been a maintenance program with him,” he said.

“He’s held his condition and he looks the part.

“Even though the Cup was his main aim, we had this race in mind, we inoculated him last winter in preparation for this race and began planning the day after the Melbourne Cup.

“So it’s not as if it’s an afterthought.”

Among Preferment’s rivals are last year’s winner Flintshire and Cox Plate third Highland Reel along with the French veteran Cirrus Des Aigles who is on his seventh visit to Hong Kong and a list of handy locals.

While Preferment is well placed in a race that is traditionally the least competitive of the four international events on the Sha Tin card, Lucia Valentina will need to reach a new level if she is to get into the finish of the Group One Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

But Lees is more than content to be giving her a chance he says she deserves, although he would like some rain.

“It’s true that she’d been out of form before winning last start and this is a much tougher race,” he said.

“But she worked very well this morning on the course proper and I firmly believe she has come on since arriving here.

“Of course, if it rained, we’d have our best chance.”

Criterion runs in the same race and would have been prominent among the chances had he not drawn barrier 13 of 14.

But Hayes and jockey Craig Williams agreed on Friday that the best tactic is to go forward from a starting point only 230 metres from the first turn.

“Plan A is to cruise across and hope for a trail behind the Japanese runner A Shin Hikari,” Hayes said.

“We know he goes fast and I think it’s clear that will give him his best winning chance.”


Article from JustHorseRacing.com.au

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