It was Almond Eye’s morning at Meydan Racecourse (Wednesday, 27 March): Japan’s star filly breezed powerfully, fluidly, impressively down the turf straight under Christophe Lemaire, to a rattle of camera shutters. Just two minutes after the flurry, Hong Kong’s Southern Legend loped the same stretch in casual anonymity.
Caspar Fownes was happy. Almond Eye might be a queen of world racing right now but the Sha Tin trainer is hoping his talented gelding might be able to knock off her crown in Saturday’s (30 March) G1 Dubai Turf (1800m). It’s a tough ask.
“Everything’s good with Southern Legend, he went quietly on the grass today and I couldn’t be happier with him, he’s fit and well,” Fownes said. “I’ve seen Almond Eye both days, she looks in great order. I didn’t see her gallop today though, I just saw her leaving the stables on her way to the track.
“Southern Legend is tough, he’s fit and he tries hard,” he continued. “Almond Eye is a champion and champions are very hard to beat but I’m happy to be in this race and I feel confident that he will perform with lots of merit and run his usual honest race.”
Southern Legend will break from the inside berth, Gate 1, on Saturday.
“The draw really doesn’t matter to Southern Legend, he’s very versatile,” Fownes said.
Almond Eye will jump from seven: The all-conquering winner of Japan’s Fillies’ Triple Crown last year is seen rightly as a clear favourite.
Southern Legend is still chasing a full-blown Group 1 win – his Kranji Mile beat-up last May was a local Singapore G1 – but his form is enviable. A somewhat luckless second to Hong Kong’s top stayer Exultant over 2000m last start and three placed efforts in G1 mile features behind the king of Sha Tin, Beauty Generation.
One beauty of global sports events like the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, FWD Champions Day and the Dubai World Cup meeting, is the drawing together of elite form-lines; measuring the best of one jurisdiction against the best of another.
Is Beauty Generation’s form-line up to the best Japan can offer? In the Master Miler’s absence, the weekend clash will not prove anything conclusively but if Southern Legend shows up at a peak, it might give further clarity.