Hong Kong two arrive in Japan, ready bid for Centaur Stakes (G2) with eye to Sprinters Stakes (G1)
Hong Kong raiders Green Birdie and Lucky Nine arrived safely at Japan's Kansai International Airport in western Japan on Thursday, Sept. 1 and were transported to quarantine at Miki Horse Land Park in Hyogo Prefecture. The two contenders are set to take on the Sept. 11 Centaur Stakes (G2) at Hanshin Racecourse and eventually the Oct. 2 Sprinters Stakes (G1) at the Nakayama venue.
The two contenders'assistant trainer Dale Bussey said, "The other day, after arriving at Kansai International Airport, it took longer than usual before the van could leave the airport. But, both horses have great appetites for after a trip and are fine, with no signs of fatigue. The two horses both took it easy and trotted today for what would be their first workout after arriving in Japan, and I think that's enough for this morning. We don't plan to do any heavy work while we're at Miki Horse Land Park. We have to take into consideration the typhoon as far as tomorrow's work goes, but we plan to do 2-3 laps at a light gallop. The track at Miki, including the sand and the depth of it, is very good, and the surrounding environs are good too. It's all very much to our liking."
The 8-year-old, New Zealand-bred gelding Green Birdie, a son of Catbird, out of the Last Tycoon mare Mrs Squillionaire, is trained by Caspar Fownes and owned by Roger Ka Chun Li. Green Birdie, who raced in the Centaur Stakes and the Sprinters Stakes last year, has failed to make the winner's circle since his win of Singapore's International Sprint at Kranji Racecourse in May 2010. He finished second in last year's Centaur Stakes and seventh in the Sprinters Stakes, both races over 1,200 meters. He has had five races since then, but only managed a best fourth place at Meydan in March. His last outing was at Kranji in May, where he finished eighth in the International Sprint.
Lucky Nine, the other Hong Kong contender, is a rising star also fielded by Fownes. The 4-year-old Irish-bred gelding is by Dubawi out of the Green Desert mare Birjand and has a current career record of seven wins and five seconds in 17 starts, Lucky Nine has had quite a year, with in-the-money performances in all of his four starts, all Group 1 races at Sha Tin Racecourse. He captured the Hong Kong Classic Mile in January and turned in a second in the 1,800-meter Hong Kong Classic Cup the following month, then went on to a third in the 1,400-meter Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup in March and a second in the Champions Mile on April 25. Lucky Nine is owned by Dr Chang Fuk To & Maria Chang Lee Ming Shum. Jockey Brett Prebble has taken the reins in all Lucky Nine's races this year. This will be the gelding's first time to travel overseas since moving to Hong Kong. He raced in Ireland as a 2-year-old under the name Luck Or Design and picked up one win, a second and a third, over 1,200 and 1,400 meters.
The Centaur Stakes will be run at the right-handed Hanshin Racecourse. The total purse is nearly 123 million yen, with 58 million yen going to the winner. Three-year-olds carry 55 kg, older horses 57 kg, with a 2-kg allowance extended to fillies and mares and 3-year-olds born in the Southern Hemisphere. A full gate comprises 16 runners.
In addition to the two Hong Kong runners are two other horses currently registered for the Sprinters Stakes, one from England (Inxile) and one from Singapore (Dubai Golden Shaheen and Singapore's International Sprint champion Rocket Man). Green Birdie and Lucky Nine are the only two foreign-based horses registered for the Centaur Stakes.
* Inxile cancelled to run in the Sprinters Stakes.