Horse Racing
Otonashi draws on experience for Danburite’s APQEII Cup quest

By Steve Moran
27/04/2018 12:53

Danburite exercises on Sha Tin turf on Thursday morning.
Danburite exercises on Sha Tin turf on Thursday morning.

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.

Danburite finishes sixth in the G1 Osaka Hai last start.

“He looks a bold, front-running type or one who races very close to the pace if he doesn’t lead. His last run was better than it looks when he finished sixth in the Group 1. He was cluttered up in behind them in a race that turned into a sit and sprint.

“You saw him at his best at his previous start when the tempo was strong and he rolled on to a solid win after stalking the speed,” Berry said.

Otonashi has a similar view of the two lead-up runs. “I think the best way to ride him is how he was ridden in the American Jockey Club Cup. The pace suited him and he was there on the speed. Jockey Mirco Demuro really gave him a good ride in the race.

“On the other hand last time, in the Osaka Hai, the pace was moderate – much slower. He was able to take a good spot early but then lost that spot. I asked the jockey to have a similar strategy to what Mirco had done in the previous start but it didn’t work out. He is not the type of horse who has a great turn-of-foot but he has the staying power to sustain a long run so I wanted him to make his bid earlier but the jockey waited too long to ask him to go.

“The racing in Hong Kong tends to suit horses who have good closing speed, but hopefully he can sit handy or close to the speed and run his race. There are only eight horses in the field so the barrier draw won’t be an issue and he’ll go forward,” Otonashi said.

Danburite joins compatriot and the similarly performed Al Ain, who finished third in the Osaka Hai, in the quest for a fifth APQEII Cup win for Japan – following Neorealism last year, Rulership in 2012 and Eishin Preston’s double in 2002 and 2003.