South Africans to fly the flag on international Stage

Simon Burgess previews the Gr1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup

Vercingetorix

Vercingetorix looks good in Thursday’s gallop

Sunday sees the running of the Gr1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup in Hong Kong over 2000 metres at Sha Tin, with an attractive HK$14mil (US$1.8mil) in prize money up for grabs. Thoroughmedia’s Simon Burgess is on site to give us his thoughts in the run up to the big day. The QEII has proved a happy hunting ground for Mike de Kock who has won two previous runnings of the race with Irridescense in 2006 and Archipenko in 2008. This year he saddles two of his successful Dubai string in Sanshaawees and Vercingetorix who have both travelled well and looked in good order during the week. Complementing the South African raiders are two smart Japanese visitors in Uncoiled to be ridden by Karis Teetan, and Epiphaneia who both bring very strong form lines, and are well credentialed to be right in the finish. Despite the loss of Hong Kong Gold Cup winner Akeed Mofeed to injury last week there’s still strong depth in the local horses with the likes of last year’s winner and reigning horse of the year Military Attack, 4yo Derby winner Designs on Rome and Hong Kong Vase winner Dominant. Quite a bit of rain has fallen during the week and further showers are forecast for race day, but the Sha Tin track is in excellent order with lush grass cover and come race time, the going is predicted to be no worse than “good”. Watching work during the week, the four international raiders have mostly settled in very well and adapted to the track and its surrounds, so there should be no excuses in that department. Going through the small field of ten runners, I don’t expect barriers to play much of a part considering how the runners have drawn. Sha Tin’s 2000m start sees a short run into the first turn before they sweep around into the back straight. Speed maps suggest that locals Packing Whizz and Same World are likely to lead the pack, with Vercingetorix getting a nice passage a couple off the leaders and the Japanese pair settling mid field. John Moore saddles four runners and I’d expect Same World to be tasked with setting a genuine pace and ensuring a true run race. Weighing the chances, it’s very hard to look past Vercingetorix. His unbeaten run came to an end in the Dubai Duty free when beaten by Japanese runner Just a Way, but the time he produced in that race would have won the previous four renewals of the race by a staggering average of ten lengths! His biggest danger looks to be the Japanese contender Epiphaneia who arrives with the same international rating as Vercingetorix of 118 and a very strong form line. He finished runner up in the first two legs of the Japanese Triple Crown last year before claiming a five length win on soft going in the third leg of the Gr1 Kikuka Sho over 3000m. He then ran third, beaten 1¾ lengths behind his Japanese Derby conqueror, Kizuna. He’s been a bit flighty and proved a handful for his work rider on several occasions, so he’ll need to have his mind on the job to win here. Its hard to see a quality horse like international Gr1 winner Military Attack not running into the placings, but history shows that Hong Kong horses travelling back from Dubai seem to struggle. That said, Military Attack has done plenty of work this week and looks very well in himself. Add the Moreira factor and a perfect draw in barrier four and he shouldn’t be taken lightly. Uncoiled under Karis Teetan looks to be a big value runner and is considered by many to be the second stringer of the Japanese contenders. He has very solid form in Japan behind the likes of Vercingetorix conqueror, Just a Way and superstar Gentildonna, so it would not surprise at all to see him running into a top four spot over this, his preferred distance. Of the remaining runners, the biggest interest will be in the local 4yo Derby winner Designs on Rome and the maiden Dibayani who was a fast finishing third in the Derby. The unknown factor is how much improvement they have made since the Derby and if they can match motors at this level, but only time will tell. Another winner on the international stage for South Africa and team De Kock? I think so.  Final selections are:- 1st – Vercingetorix 2nd – Epiphaneia 3rd – Uncoiled 4th – Military Attack

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