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International contingent braves the Hong Kong rain

Red Cadeaux will meet familiar foe Dunaden in the Hong Kong Vase (Hong Kong Jockey Club)
Leaden skies and rain greeted the international contenders as they headed out on to Sha Tin Racecourse shortly after 8:30 a.m. local time on Monday, seven days ahead of their Group 1 engagements in Sunday's Hong Kong International Races.

Red Cadeaux (Vase) and Gordon Lord Byron (Mile) broke ranks to work on the turf course, while the remainder did light exercise on the wet all-weather surface.  Of the 27 overseas raiders, all bar Cirrus Des Aigles (Cup), Sea Moon (Vase), Meandre (Vase), Dandino (Vase) and Master of Hounds (Mile) ventured out of the quarantine stables.

Red Cadeaux, who missed by a whisker in last year's Group 1 Melbourne Cup, exits a rallying eighth in the November 6 renewal. The Ed Dunlop trainee reportedly covered his final half-mile of his turf gallop in 1:02.9, and looks to improve on his  dead-heat third to Dunaden in the 2011 Hong Kong Vase.

"He's had a nice canter today with Sunday's jockey Gerald (Mosse) looking on," traveling head lad Robin Trevor-Jones said. "That will have done him the world of good. He's in great order and as fit as a fiddle."

Defending Vase champion Dunaden cantered two laps in the slop. Last year's Melbourne Cup hero made a triumphant return to Australia to take the Group 1 Caulfield Cup on October 20, but was out of luck when 14th at Melbourne.

"You must be very careful with him," said Mathieu Brasme, assistant trainer to Mikel Delzangles. "He looks nice, but he is known to buck and jump without warning, and a few of his riders have ended on the ground!"

Vase rival Joshua Tree, who regained his crown in the Grade 1 Canadian International last out, cantered a lap on the all-weather track.

"As you can see he is full of beans," exercise rider Wayne Goldsborough said. "He's almost too well!"

Gordon Lord Byron will need to improve again to threaten in the Hong Kong Mile (Hong Kong Jockey Club)
Hong Kong Mile contender Gordon Lord Byron tuned up on the turf course, where he toured his final half-mile in :50. The winner of the Group 1 Prix de la Foret in his latest, the progressive four-year-old now ventures outside of Europe for the first time.

"He did a nice piece of work this morning," said Andrew Hogan, trainer Tom Hogan's son and assistant. "He traveled well and it was just what we wanted. We're happy with his preparation."

Japan's Mile duo, Sadamu Patek and Grand Prix Boss, each cantered one lap on the all-weather. Sadamu Patek just denied Grand Prix Boss by a neck in the Grade 1 Mile Championship on November 18.

Yuichiro Shiomitsu, groom for trainer Masato Nishizono, commented on Sadamu Patek.

"The travel was very smooth, and I heard it was the easiest trip for some years," Shiomitsu said. "We will breeze him under jockey Yutaka Take on Wednesday, and depending on the condition of both horse and track we will decide which surface to gallop on."

Grand Prix Boss is showing signs of coping better, according to Koji Kubo, strapper for trainer Yoshito Yahagi.

"He was a little tense in the different surroundings when he was in quarantine at home, but the good thing is he is with many other horses here, so he is getting relaxed and his appetite is back now," Kubo revealed. "If he gets back to his normal weight, it will be a good sign."

Lord Kanaloa gives Japan a better than usual shot at the Hong Kong Sprint (Hong Kong Jockey Club)
Japan's contenders for the Hong Kong Sprint, stablemates Lord Kanaloa and Curren Chan, likewise cantered a lap on the all-weather.

Lord Kanaloa, who dethroned Curren Chan in the Grade 1 Sprinters Stakes on September 30, will be making his first start outside Japan.

"Since winning the Sprinters Stakes, he has not raced," said Shogo Yasuda, assistant trainer to Takayuki Yasuda. "He does not like heat in the summer and, after running his preparation race for the Sprinters Stakes in September, the weather became cooler which made his condition improve and he was almost in perfect condition for the Sprinters Stakes.

"He is a sensitive horse when he travels to different surroundings, but he is with Curren Chan this time, and he is very settled. Sha Tin racecourse is not much different from Japanese tracks, so he will be suited by the track here. The field in the Hong Kong Sprint is very tough but he is getting back to a very good condition, so he must have a big chance."

Curren Chan is familiar with Sha Tin, having finished a solid fifth in last year's Sprint.

"Last year the Japan team had some accidents on the way to Hong Kong with the flight delayed, and we were on stand-by for many hours," Yasuda said. "Due to that, she was not in a perfect condition last year though she still finished fifth in the Hong Kong Sprint and that gives us a good feeling for this year. The travel was very smooth this year, and she is in very good form, so I think we have had a good preparation for the big event."

Singapore's Super Easy looks to rebound off a sixth in the Sprint prep (Hong Kong Jockey Club)
Singapore star Super Easy had a rough introduction to Hong Kong when sixth in the Grade 2 Jockey Club Sprint on November 18. Considering that he bled and also threw a shoe, his effort was creditable, and trainer Michael Freedman projects improvement.

"I'd say he's come on a bit from the run in the Jockey Club Sprint," Freedman said. "I'm pleased we ran him in that lead-up race just so he had some experience of the pressure and the tempo of racing here.

"He tracked on the right leg and he has no problem going right-handed but the experience has still done him the world of good. He pulled up a bit 'short' after that race after losing a shoe in the run. Olivier (Doleuze) said he thought he'd lost his action but I think that was a consequence of the shoe.

"He was only 3 1/2 lengths off (the winner) Lucky Nine and his run wasn't too bad. I think we'll probably go with a tongue tie on Sunday. He's been working with the tongue tie on over the past couple of mornings and it just might give us a little edge. He won't disgrace himself."

Super Easy cantered a lap on the all-weather track Monday morning.

France will be represented by three contenders in the Hong Kong Cup. The venerable gelding Cirrus des Aigles exercised in the quarantine area trotting ring, while Giofra and Saonois braved the mud during training hours.

"Cirrus did not do much today," said Jean-Jacques Poincelet, assistant trainer to Corine Barande-Barbe. "With such weather, the track condition is not right for a real piece of work.

"The old man is all right, as usual. I could say that he traveled better than last year, but as you might have noticed, I say that every year! We have not been lucky here the last few years but everything seems to have fallen in the right place for us this time."

Cirrus des Aigles has had excuses of one sort or another in his three previous visits to Hong Kong, but a reproduction of his stellar European form would see him finally break through. The multiple Group 1 star was last seen finishing an honorable runner-up to Frankel in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Ascot October 20.

French Derby upsetter Saonois joins compatriots Cirrus des Aigles and Giofra in the Hong Kong Cup (Hong Kong Jockey Club)
Giofra cantered two circuits of the all-weather track. The filly scored her signature win in the Group 1 Falmouth at Newmarket in July and most recently checked in third in the Group 1 Prix de l'Opera.

"We cannot do much on such ground," exercise rider Majorie Conte said, "and I need to find another pair of jeans for tomorrow now!"

Trainer Jean-Pierre Gauvin is hoping the prevailing unseasonal rainfall will end sooner rather than later after his Hong Kong Cup candidate Saonois completed a lap of the sloppy dirt track on Monday morning.

"That was fast enough on that sort of ground," Gauvin quipped, watching through binoculars from the trainers' stand as the Group 1 French Derby winner finished on a very easy canter.

"Saonois traveled very well and never left anything in his feed box -- he's a pony, really," his trainer added. "Yet I wouldn't like him to be too stiff tomorrow. I would rather favor the turf in the next few days. He should gallop on grass tomorrow and on Friday."

Gauvin arrived at Sha Tin last Friday and is staying along with his staff and the colt's owner Pascal Treyve at the Royal Park hotel near the racecourse. Coming from a harness racing background, Gauvin is used to covering all angles of his business, including riding the horses himself, which trainers seldom do.

Much has been said and done since the claimer-turned-classic-winner took the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) by storm in June. Yet the horse himself has not changed much.

"He could have become a bit stronger," Gauvin said, "but he has not grown. I took his measure the other day and only got him 3 millimeters higher than in the Spring. To be honest, I think his shoes made the difference!

"I would like the rain to stop to give us a better track (for Sunday). I worry a bit about that -- it is my job to be worried."

Carlton House has shipped to the former British colony in search of a Group 1 title (Hong Kong Jockey Club)
The Queen's Carlton House cantered one circuit of the all-weather track. Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, last year's beaten Group 1 Derby favorite warmed up with a fourth in the Ascot race named for his owner, the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II, on October 20.

"He's nice and fresh today and we're really pleased with him," travelling head lass Sarah Denniff said. "Although he lost 20 pounds on the journey here he has already put most of that back on. We'll probably breeze him on Thursday, and the trainer will be here by then."

Australian veteran Alcopop, who garnered the Group 1 Mackinnon at Flemington November 3, also cantered a lap on the all-weather track.

"He's in good shape," trainer Jake Stephens said. "I know there were reports he lost a lot of weight on the flight, but it was more in the couple of days after he arrived. He had weight on him which he could afford to lose. He's only lost what he needed to.

"He's eating up well and he's now close to his ideal racing weight, which is perfect. He was kicking and squealing this morning which is a good sign.

"This is a strange environment for him but he's 'palled up' with Sea Siren (Australia's runner in the Sprint) and now he's doing well. He needs the companion, and I doubt we would have come had he been on his own."

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