Never Bouchon readies bid for Hong Kong Queen Elizabeth II Cup
Japan hopeful Never Bouchon is said to be in top form for the Sunday running of the $1.8-million Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse. The Japanese 7-year-old drew the No. 1 slot in the 2,000-meter event, a position that won the nod of trainer Masanori Ito, on hand for the draw Thursday. "Looking at how the race is likely to unfold, I consider this is a good draw."
The Queen Elizabeth II Cup was first run at the Hong Kong Happy Valley track in 1975, became an international event in 1995 and a Group 1 race in 2001. Japan's Eishin Preston in 2002 became the first and only horse so far to be awarded the special HK$1-million bonus, after claiming victory in both the Hong Kong Mile in 2001 and the 2002 QEII Cup. Eishin Preston also won the 2003 QEII Cup.
This year’s QEII has attracted a field of nine runners, including 2009 champion Presvis from Great Britain. Presvis, who came from far behind for a thrilling win last year, has drawn the No. 6 slot, with other likely top picks Viva Pataca of Hong Kong in the No. 7 spot, Collection in the No. 8 slot, Lizard’s Desire to break from No. 2 and Super Pistachio in No. 5.
The field was reduced by one after the volcanic ash crisis in Europe forced the withdrawal of French contender Chinchon earlier in the week due to flight cancellations. Hong Kong horses number six, with one runner each from Great Britain, South Africa (Lizard's Desire) and Japan.
Never Bouchon arrived last Saturday in Hong Kong after an uneventful flight and trackwork has been proceeding without a hitch, according to connections.
Work Thursday saw Never Bouchon gallop over the all-weather under work rider Yuta Onodera. Never Bouchon wrapped up the final 400 meters of a 1,200-meter workout in a neat 21.4 seconds. After the work, Never Bouchon was taken to the pre-parade ring for schooling.
Groom Takafumi Aoki expressed his satisfaction with the blowout saying, "I'm relieved to have the fast work behind us. The rest will be just maintaining his present condition and keeping his mind on his work."
Onodera, who will hand the reins to Hiroki Goto on race day, was aboard for work earlier in the week over the turf as well. "It was his first time over the turf track and he was jumping at things a bit as he worked. We'll take him out on the turf once more before the race and I don't expect any problems. He's running well and has his mind on his work."
Never Bouchon, by Marvelous Sunday out of the Mill Reef mare Pearl Necklace, is owned by Toshihiro Hirosaki and was bred at Hayata Farm in Niikappu, Hokkaido. He has an international rating of 115. The Sunday field of the QEII is led in ratings by Collection, Presvis and Viva Pataca, all at 120, with Lizard's Desire rated at 119. All horses will be carrying 126 lb (57 kg).
Packing Winner, fifth place in last year's race, is expected to take the lead in the race, with Never Bouchon following just off the pace. Collection is expected to race from mid-pack, with Viva Pataca (runnerup in last year's QEII and winner in 2007) and Presvis likely to take up their usual rearward positions.
Five horses running have notched Group I wins before, Presvis and Viva Pataca with two, Collection, Lizard's Desire and Super Pistachio with one each to their names.
Never Bouchon is racing outside of Japan for the first time. Currently with 8 wins, one second and three thirds in a total of 33 outings, he is coming off a fourth-place run in the Group 2 Nikkei Sho run March 27 at Nakayama Racecourse.
Rider for the QEII Goto, who has ridden Never Bouchon in a number of his previous races, was aboard in the Nikkei Sho as well. The horse's last win came this past January 24, when he claimed his second successive American Jockey Club Cup, a 2,200-meter Group 2 race also run at Nakayama. His three runs prior to that, all Group 1 events (the Arima Kinen, Japan Cup and Tenno Sho (Autumn)), saw him finishing in 12th, 10th and 13th place, respectively.
* Please visit the following websites for more information.
Hong Kong Jockey Club website: http://www.hkjc.com/english/
Audemars Piguet QEII Cup website: http://www.hkjc.com/english/special/apqe/apqeii_index.asp
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