Apprentice steps into master's hooves for Barande-Barbe
When you think of Corine Barande-Barbe you think of Cirrus Des Aigles.
The sensational gelding, who was retired after last year's Hong Kong Vase, won hearts and minds worldwide with his globetrotting and Group 1-winning antics.
And yet, here she is. Still on the world stage. Still looking to make an impact. For a trainer with a string smaller than Eddie Jones's matchday squad, it is some achievement.
The horse in question is Garlingari who takes on Highland Reel, the horse who retired his stablemate, in the Hong Kong Vase.
Barande-Barbe is just about the only trainer on the planet who would describe a five-year-old Flat horse as young and babyish, but then she saddled Cirrus Des Aigles to win four of his seven career Group 1s at the age of eight and nine.
"I'm very happy. He's a different horse. He looks very well," she said on Wednesday morning. "He's younger than Cirrus Des Aigles and so he's very aware and looking everywhere. He's dancing so I am happy."
This time last year Garlingari was finishing second in a Listed race at Toulouse, but wins in the Group 3 Prix Exbury and Group 2 Prix d'Harcourt in the spring marked him out as still improving and he has been kept off the track since August with this race in mind.
"I think it's a hard race because there's a lot of good horses but Garlingari is the most fresh because he had a real stop in summer. He's only five so it's difficult to go all year round and I had that in mind when deciding to target this.
"I think he's on his way to his best, he still looks a bit like a baby and is growing a lot. He has a very good mind, a good temper. It's very hard to compare him to Cirrus because he really was exceptional, he's the richest gelding in Europe. Garlingari tries and he might have a very nice career.
"He's won on good ground. Of course Hong Kong good going is not the same as in France but I think he will handle it well. I hope to win, but if he's not in the first four I would be a bit disappointed. It depends on the draw and how the race develops, but I am confident."
Barande-Barbe also joked that Cirrus Des Aigles had taught Garlingari all he knew of the international scene.
"The old boy spent a few months at the stable after retiring and he explained everything to Garlingari, about all the people and buildings, and told him everything would be okay."
It is hard to convey just how exciting Sunday's mega clash is between last year's Mile winner Maurice and Cup champion A Shin Hikari - but numbers do not lie.
The number of accredited press from the land of the rising sun has almost doubled from last year and has broken the three-figure barrier, such is the interest back home.
It is not really surprising. To British viewers Maurice may just be the horse Ryan Moore wins all those foreign races on, while A Shin Hikari is either the beast we saw in riotous form destroying all before him in the Prix d'Ispahan, or the lion who squeaked at Royal Ascot, but to the Japanese they are worthy of hero worship.
It is not overstating things (too much) to say that, for the Japanese, this a little bit like when Frankel stepped up to take on St Nicholas Abbey in the Juddmonte International.
Maurice is the crack miler, stepping up in trip with five Group/Grade 1 wins to his name and only beaten twice (and even then he was second) since 2015. A Shin Hikari is the middle-distance star, with ten wins from 14 starts and two breathtaking Grade/Group 1s to his name.
The market strongly fancies Maurice, and that is understandable as he is not only an absolute superstar but he beat A Shin Hikari over Sunday's trip in the Grade 1 Tenno Sho at Tokyo in October.
But that was A Shin Hikari's first start since finishing last at Royal Ascot and if he can return to the form he was in this time last year he could really test the favourite. He was a 7-2 shot that day and is expected to strip fitter.
Another long journey
Yesterday's diary detailed the arduous journey faced by Gary Moore's Takedown to get here, but Vase outsider Benzini did not have the easiest of journeys due to the remoteness of his trainer's, Adrian and Harry Bull, base.
The two train out on a farm that makes the middle of nowhere seem like a buzzing hub of activity. As such he made a 12-hour round trip for his sixth-placed effort in the Group 1 Livamol Classic in Hastings, New Zealand, only to have a few days at home before embarking on the six-hour journey to Auckland, to fly to Singapore and then onto Hong Kong.
And by all accounts he has no chance!
Also mentioned yesterday was One Foot In Heaven's race against time to right himself from illness. He had another quiet morning but trainer Alain de Royer-Dupre feels he is looking brighter and he will be out on the track tomorrow with another three days to continue improving.