|Ouija Board, Pride bid for championship|
Intrigue will be the order of the day at Sha Tin on Sunday as the superb mares Ouija Board and Pride bid farewell to the races while bidding for the filly and mare world championship, albeit in separate events. Also, Takeover Target faces an early-morning urine test to see if he can maintain his place as the favorite for the Hong Kong Sprint.
Meanwhile, Rebel Rebel will be the lone American starter among 50 horses entered in the four Hong Kong International Races worth a total of $8 million. An Irish-bred 4-year-old trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Rebel Rebel goes in the $2omillion Hong Kong Mile.
Ouija Board was deemed in "great shape" by her trainer, Ed Dunlop, on Friday morning after cantering in preparation of a defense of her 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase title, while seeking the eighth Group or Grade 1 victory of her storied career. A two-time winner of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Ouija Board is coming off an only slightly disappointing third behind Deep Impact in the Japan Cup, a race in which she had finished fifth last year before notching the $1.8omillion Vase. Frankie Dettori has the call.
Ouija Board, Lord Derby's Cape Cross 5-year-old, faces another strong Japanese challenge in the three-turn, 1o1/2-mile contest. Perhaps most dangerous is Japanese St. Leger winner Song of Wind. This El Condor Pasa colt beat Japan Cup runner-up Dream Passport by 1 3/4 lengths in the Leger, and Dream Passport was half a length in front of Ouija Board in the Japan Cup. Also in the field are Japanese St. Leger third-place finisher Admire Main, Canadian International winner Collier Hill, last year's Grand Prix de Paris and St. Leger winner Scorpion, and Irish St. Leger winner Kastoria.
Pride is also in for a tough race, in the $2.5 million, 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup. Trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, Pride, 6, followed her second behind Rail Link in the Arc de Triomphe with a career-best effort in the 1 1/4-mile Champion Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 14. Second by a nose in the Cup last year to Vengeance of Rain, she looks ready for a big effort.
Vengeance of Rain has won four Group 1 races at Sha Tin but has run 10th and fifth in lesser events going shorter this fall. He worked sharply, however, on Tuesday and will appreciate the return to 1 1/2 miles. The Jim Bolger-trained Alexander Goldrun won the Cup two years ago but was an unlucky eighth last year. A repeat of her nose second to Ouija Board in the Nassau Stakes on Aug. 5 would put her in the picture.
Owner-trainer Joe Janiak has revealed that he administered the steroid oestrogen to Takeover Target as a travel aid between Tokyo and Hong Kong seven weeks ago. That will cost him a chance in the $1.5 million Hong Kong Sprint - and more - if the traces of that drug, which turned up in two separate urine samples this week, haven't cleared by Sunday morning. Takeover Target will earn a $1 million Global Sprint Challenge bonus if he wins the six-furlong Sprint on top of his victories in the Lightning and Sprinters stakes. Jay Ford will ride Takeover Target, if he runs, breaking from post 12, which produces the highest percentage of winners over Sha Tin's right-handed, one-turn six-furlong course.
Silent Witness twice won the Sprint at its former distance over a straight five furlongs but is not what he used to be. If Takeover Target is scratched, the selection is British invader Benbaun. Frequently a runner-up in Europe, Benbaun, 5, would rate a slight edge over Sprinters Stakes runner-up Meisho Bowler.
Rebel Rebel's lone victory this year came in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes at Belmont, a weak credential in the face of 13 rivals in the Hong Kong Mile. CashCall Mile winner Dance in the Mood, a Grade 1 winner in Japan going a mile this year, is taken to hold off recent International Mile Trial winner Armada, sharp Italian invader Ramonti, and Yasuda Kinen winner Bullish Luck in the race.
(Courtesy of Daily Racing Form, ALAN SHUBACK)