Thursday’s (27 April) barrier draw for Sunday’s (30 April) HK$20 million G1 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup (2000m) left connections no more or less confident about taking out the coveted prize.
With eight runners to face the starter the draw was generally reckoned to be of less significance than with a capacity field of 14 and Hong Kong’s iconic racing figure Tony Cruz certainly remained bullish about his two pronged attack - with Pakistan Star and Blazing Speed.
“Blazing Speed will be handy to the pace so (barrier) seven’s perfect for him and three’s OK for Pakistan Star. Obviously the draw is not so important for him. I’m really pleased with both horses leading into the race,” Cruz said.
Japanese trainer Noriyuki Hori, who prepares the highest-rated international contender Neorealism, said his horse’s condition and that of the track were more important factors than the draw but was ‘not unhappy’ with gate six.
“It’s not a big factor, I think in this race. I just want to make sure my horse is in the best condition and we would prefer good ground. I will sit down and talk to Joao (Moreira) about tactics,” Hori said.
Gianluca Bietolini, trainer of Dicton who represents France for Hong Kong-based owner Robert Ng, was pleased to draw gate four. “It’s a good draw, I think, in the middle. Blazing Speed goes forward outside him and Neorealism, likewise, from his outside so hopefully we finish up in a good spot,” he said.
Defending champion Werther drew gate two which will allow jockey Hugh Bowman to find some cover early and have his mount relax in the run. “The biggest thing is getting him to relax in his races,” Bowman said on Wednesday.
Designs On Rome drew gate one, Secret Weapon will break from gate eight and The United States drew gate five.
Recent history indicates that drawing inside is not critical in terms of the likelihood of winning the race despite the short run to the first turn.
Seven of the past 10 winners have drawn barrier seven or wider; eight of those winners have drawn between gates five and nine and only one winner, in that time, has drawn inside five which was Military Attack (barrier 3) in 2013.