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Manikato winner Rebel Dane set for Hong Kong raid


by David Morgan

Australian sprinter Rebel Dane is on course for a shot at the HK$18.5 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday, 11 December, with trainer Gary Portelli reporting his stable star to be in great heart two weeks on from his G1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) triumph.

“He’s been bucking his brands off in the mornings and I've had to work him just to keep him in check,” said the Warwick Farm, New South Wales, trainer.

That Manikato success was the seven-year-old’s second score at the highest level but it was a long time between drinks, coming three years and 17 G1 misses after a top-flight breakthrough in the 2013 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m).

Rebel Dane’s Manikato win was not a bolt from the blue, however. The California Dane entire had been thereabouts in three previous editions of the Manikato, finishing a length fifth to Buffering (2013), a neck fourth to Lankan Rupee (2014) and two lengths third to Chautauqua (2015).

With the monkey off his back, Rebel Dane will, all things being equal, attempt to end another notable drought: Australia’s dry spell in the Hong Kong Sprint, which stretches back 15 years to Falvelon’s second win in 2001. Since then, the race has gone the way of three Aussie jockeys, three Hong Kong-based Aussie trainers and six Australian-bred gallopers, but no Australian-based trainer has managed to fly in a horse and take the winner’s trophy south. That fact doesn’t put off Portelli.

“Hong Kong’s always been on the radar for this horse and I’m so pleased the owners have decided to give it a go,” he said. “We've been on the cusp of nominating on two previous occasions and the horse has, in fact, been vaccinated twice before but it just hasn't worked out for one reason or another.

“I've spoken to Mark Player (Hong Kong Jockey Club consultant) to get a feel for the race and Gary Crispe, from Timeform Australia, says his Manikato Stakes win rated 120 and that mark should have him competitive. The view is that he’s not going to be 100/1 so for me it’s a case of ‘why not, let’s have a go’.”

Portelli is no stranger to travelling a horse overseas.  In 2010 he sent Gold Trail to New Zealand, Singapore and England: the gelding won the G1 Railway Stakes, ran fourth in the G1 KrisFlyer International Sprint and was 10th in the G1 King’s Stand Stakes. The handler believes a busy domestic spring campaign has not knocked the edge off Rebel Dane.

“He's already had the five runs this campaign and some people might question him going at this stage but he's a last start Group 1 winner and truly it’s the best I've ever seen him come through a race,” he said of Laurel Oak Bloodstock’s star.

“He’s in good form and I think an in-form stallion is a lot like the in-form mare, they tend to hold their form once they strike it. We just want to go there and be competitive.”

The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races comprises the HK$25 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the HK$23 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), the HK$18.5 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the HK$16.5 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).


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LONGINES Hong Kong International Races


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