Upbeat Millard aiming for another Elusive success
One of the most improved horses in HK is one of the bill toppers as Elusive State bids to return to winning form in Sunday’s Kwangtung Handicap at Sha Tin.
A switch to South African trainer Tony Millard has been the making of the six-year-old, who won his first four races for new connections and has some fancy options both at home and abroad if he continues to progress this season.
“We tried to be pretty precise and pinpointed his races last season and then we gave him a good break,” said Millard.
Elusive State returned from that break with a fine second over 1200m on the Sha Tin dirt and now returns to his optimum trip of 1650m with a good draw and Joao Moreira aboard.
“I think 1600m plus would be his proper distance,” he added. “His opportunities are very limited but we’ll see how he runs – we certainly have a very nice plan for him.”
Condon reflects as former pupil continues to thrive
Rise High has been raised to a HK mark of 127 after his shock defeat of Beauty Generation at Sha Tin last Sunday and now only has the master miler and champion middle distance stayer Exultant ahead of him on local ratings.
His colourful handler Caspar Fownes is relishing the prospect of a return to 2000m for the Jockey Club next month and the man who plotted Rise High’s early days in Ireland has been watching him thrive from afar.
Rise High was known as Landfall when he landed a Curragh maiden and a Leopardstown G3 as a juvenile for Ken Condon and plans for a further step up in class were afoot before his sale to HK.
“ He was always tall and scopey and crucially had a very sound temperament, said Condon. “He didn't start fast work till late May but by July it was apparent he was above average and he made all and won a typically strong Curragh maiden on his debut.
“The work he did four days before his G3 win was exceptional and marked him out as a potential G1 horse. We were hopeful heading into the race and he didn't disappoint - winning nicely over a small but select field – and it’s been nice for us to follow his progress in HK.”
Stars out in force as HKIR entries emerge
Much can happen in the next six weeks but the initial entries for this year’s LONGINES HKIR threw up several notable talking points.
Hong Kong horses recorded a historic clean sweep in the four G1 contests last year and the quartet in question – namely Mr Stunning, Beauty Generation, Glorious Forever and Exultant – are all on course to defend their crowns.
But the list of possible overseas visitors contains any number of dangers.
Star Japanese filly Almond Eye looms large among a powerful Japanese contingent if she comes through her clash with the exciting Saturnalia in Sunday’s Tenno Sho.
Fellow Japanese filly Lys Gracieux will also test her HK credentials as a leading contender for Saturday’s Cox Plate at Moonee Valley and the globetrotting Deirdre looks highly likely to turn up after adding to her considerable fan club with a highly successful spell in Britain and Ireland.
Magical and Circus Maximus would add a great deal to the party if they follow the path set by Highland Reel in heading to Sha Tin after the Breeders’ Cup, while Godolphin’s potential runners include proven international G1 performers such as Benbatl and Old Persian.