Treasure Beach stretches his legs at Sha Tin racecoursePICTURE: Photo Release
Treasure Beach bids for Sha Tin glory in QEII
Preview: Hong Kong, Sunday, 9.35am BST
Sha Tin: Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (Group 1) 1m2f, turf, 3yo+
THE CLASH between the most recent Irish and Hong Kong Derby winners, Treasure Beach and Fay Fay, ranks as one of the more interesting sub-plots in an intriguing Audemars Piguet QEII Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The quality of the line-up for the springtime showpiece, worth just shy of £1 million, has been the subject of a few disparaging comments in the local media since it was announced a fortnight ago.
But whilethere is always room for improvement, there is enough foreign-based quality on display in the form of Treasure Beach, the Mike de Kock-trained Viscount Nelson, French globetrotter Chinchon and the very smart Japanese hope Rulership.
The presence of joint top-rated Treasure Beach undoubtedly lends the race a good deal of clout and the Investec Derby runner-up and Secretariat Stakes winner of last year, now racing in the silks of Jim and Fitri Hay, will be the first envoy from Ballydoyle to this slice of China outside of December's international meeting.
But if Treasure Beach is to provide Aidan O'Brien with his first victory in Hong Kong he must overcome the widest gate of 13, so it should not surprise ifJamie Spencer elects to race on the forward side of a pace that may not turn out particularly quick.
"Aidan will sort the tactics with Jamie, but the main thing for us is that the horse has travelled over very well and should run a good race from the way he looks to have settled in," said travelling assistant TJ Comerford.
The challenge of Chinchon (Carlos Laffon-Parias/Ryan Moore) also merits closer scrutiny. Fourth in this race in 2009, the seven-year-old might well have won in Singapore last May had he covered less ground and returned to the fray as good as ever last month winning the Group 3 Prix Exbury in Paris on his first start back after a hairline fracture.
"He always travels well and doesn't lose a lot of weight," Laffon-Parias said. "I was pleased that he ran very well on his comeback. It was hard for him to come here last time as a four-year-old but he is more mature and better prepared now."
The foreign quartet will tackle nine locally-trained rivals, seven of which have won at the highest level at Sha Tin, including Fay Fay, December's Hong Kong Cup winner California Memory and Sweet Orange, luckless in the local Derby last month and who might well start favourite on the local tote having drawn near the inside where trainer David Ferraris hoped.
"He has finally drawn a barrier and his preparation has been great. I couldn't be happier with him and he will take a lot of beating," Ferraris said.
Fay Fay (John Size/Douglas Whyte) has drawn next to the outside, but an even worse gate failed to prevent him winning a very slowly run Derby on his last start and he is likely to try and replicate that achievement from another prominent position.
Showersare forecast through post time on Sunday so the normally fast Sha Tin turf could end up riding somewhat slower.