Japanese trainer Hidetaka Otonashi has drawn on the experience of his one previous Hong Kong runner to potentially have Danburite, his high class middle-distance performer, in the best order for Sunday’s HK$24 million G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup (2000m).
That previous runner was Mikki Isle, who finished a creditable seventh in the 2015 Hong Kong Sprint despite the travel and training having dulled his performance, according to the former jockey and eight-time G1-winning trainer.
“When I sent Mikki Isle to Hong Kong, he suffered from the stress of travelling and arrived with a slightly elevated temperature. He wasn’t at his best through that week. So, this time, I thought I would not do too much with my horse over the week, as he has done all he needed to before we brought him here,” Otonashi said from Japan, as he is unable to make the trip himself this time.
Danburite, a son of the 2012 APQEII Cup winner Rulership, has looked to thrive during the week at Sha Tin and Otonashi said his staff have assured him the horse has done well in Hong Kong.
“They tell me that he has been very fresh and bright and in good form through the week. He had a steady work-out on the turf on Monday and Thursday morning, and he maintains his good condition,” Otonashi said.
He was certainly bright enough yesterday (Thursday) morning when he worked on the turf under exercise rider Shinichiro Kobayashi, who said: “After he warmed-up in the trotting ring, he went out on to the turf course and cantered along before he started to accelerate from the 600 (metres). He moved nicely and responded well as I asked him to quicken up.
“He has done almost all he has needed to before he arrived, so I have not asked too much of him over this week. Everything has gone as planned. Today, he headed down to the paddock area and the starting gate for schooling.”
Hong Kong-based Australian jockey Tommy Berry takes the reins on Sunday. “The owner wanted a top Hong Kong jockey to ride the horse and Berry certainly has the local knowledge and experience,” Otonashi explained.
Berry, who has recoverd from a Tuesday track work fall, is certainly looking forward to riding Danburite whose form is ‘at the very least competitive’ according to the jockey. He comes into the race after a win in the G2 American Jockey Club Cup at Nakayama on 21 January and a subsequent sixth place behind Suave Richard in the G1 Osaka Hai at Hanshin on 1 April.