Hong Kong diary: Confidence despite Takedown's trip

Richard Fahey

Richard Fahey: will be hoping to have as easy a time as Growl

  PICTURE: Caroline Norris (racingpost.com/photos)  

 By Stuart Riley in Hong Kong 3:30PM 6 DEC 2016 

AUSTRALIAN sprinter Takedown was invited to take part in the Sprint only after Profitable’s withdrawal but his trainer, the colourful Gary Moore, sways between confident and convinced that his once overlooked four-year-old will win.

Moore (no, not Ryan’s sire, from the other Moore dynasty) is the son of legendary Australian jockey-turned-trainer George and younger brother of Hong Kong doyen John. Now training in Sydney, he knows what it takes to win in Hong Kong, having been champion jockey there on seven occasions.

Since acquiring his invite Takedown has elevated himself to Group 1-winner status in the Winterbottom Stakes at Perth’s Ascot racecourse, Moore’s first top-level success in Australia as a trainer. In the immediate aftermath Moore was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald as stating, beer in hand, that “they won’t beat him in Hong Kong”.

That was before Takedown began what turned out to be a rather complicated journey from Perth to Hong Kong.

With no direct flights from Perth to his home in Sydney, he flew first to Melbourne for a connecting flight. That was when the problems really started.

Takedown was meant to return home for a few days’ rest and recuperation but, with no flights from Australia to Hong Kong that would get him here in time, the Hong Kong Jockey Club entered into frantic discussions with the governments in both countries – and Cathay Pacific.

The details were ironed out and a flight was scheduled from Melbourne, where, due to the lost time – Takedown was on the ground in Melbourne for 18 hours – his vet checks were performed.

Despite all that, Moore – who was also champion jockey in France, where he won the 1981 Arc on Gold River, and eight-time champion trainer in Macau – is optimistic about Takedown’s chances of adding a second Group 1 in Sunday’s Sprint.

“I think he’s excelled and looks as well as he did in Perth,” said Moore, who served a four-year worldwide ban after turning witness to avoid a jail sentence in the infamous ‘Shanghai Syndicate’ race-fixing scandal in the 1980s. “If we’re lucky enough to draw inside five, he’d have a very good chance. He’ll gallop half a mile tomorrow morning and that should really put him straight for Sunday.”

Moore touched on the importance of the draw in the Sprint, which is one of the many things about the racing at Happy Valley and Sha Tin that Neil Callan discusses in greater depth in Wednesday’s Racing Post.

Growl learning softly-softly approach
We all like an easy time of it when abroad and it would appear Richard Fahey’s Growl is no different.

The Marwan Koukash-owned four-year-old arrived last week but, with the boss not yet in town, he is yet to leave the sandy shores of the quarantine stables.

The Qipco British Champions Sprint runner-up is due on the dirt track on Wednesday morning (local time, the wee hours for those following from Britain) after three quiet days of ticking over on the sand track within the quarantine facilities.

It coincides with his trainer’s arrival and his work rider Fionn McSharry, who has been overseeing things since Saturday, reported Growl was fit and well and that Fahey had not wanted to do too much in the build-up after a season that started in April and has already seen him visit the racecourse 11 times.

“He’s in good shape and stretched his legs today. He’ll do some work on the dirt tomorrow,” she said.

Big Orange also completed a lap of the track under work rider Gillian Dolman, who said: “He’s very fit and we’re really happy with him.”

Aidan O’Brien’s pair Highland Reel and Cougar Mountain both worked over 800m (4f) with the defending Vase champion covering the distance 3.7sec quicker – 0.8sec of which was eked out in the final furlong.

Quite how much can be read into fractions of 15.3, 15.2, 16.7 and 14.7 is anyone’s guess, given it is substantially below race pace, but Highland Reel was one of the more impressive on the eye and that really validates Elliptique’s workout, over a furlong further, in which he pounded out fractions of 15.9, 14.4, 13.9, 13.6 and 12.8 under work rider Amelie Foulon.

Andre Fabre’s head man Richard Lambert said: “He just cantered away in Amelie’s hands, it was very easy. He is well.”

Where’s that Foot?
One Foot In Heaven’s chances of competing in Sunday’s Vase could have one foot in the grave after abnormalities with his blood kept him off the track and in the quarantine stable.

Unlike Growl it was not by choice and Serge Renee – assistant to trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre, who won the Cup in 2006 with One Foot In Heaven’s dam Pride – said: “He didn’t travel over too well and so he’s staying in there for today but everything is fine. The vet here has said he’s doing better now and he should be out tomorrow.”   

HKJC chief stipendiary steward Kim Kelly said: “Dr Peter Curl has advised the stewards One Foot In Heaven has been found to show evidence of a blood abnormality after arriving in Hong Kong. Dr Curl has informed that this condition is most likely related to long-distance travel. The horse’s condition will continue to be monitored and a further release will be issued at the appropriate time.”

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