where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2009-04-23 09:32:50  

Trainer Carlos Laffon-Parias was at the track for the first time this week to watch Chinchon (pictured), his Audemars Piguet QEII Cup contender, go through his paces on the all-weather track and appeared happy with what he saw.

No stranger to Sha Tin, the Chantilly-based Laffon-Parias sent out Balius to fill the runner up spot in both the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup in 2008 and he clearly has hopes of another strong performance this time around from Chinchon.

"Chinchon has got better as the week has progressed. He was a little warm on his first day out on the track, he sweated up, but he's calmer now. His prep race in France was okay [when third in the Gr.3 Prix Exbury] but he needed the race, as he's a very lazy worker at home. He was left in front that day which didn't suit him, as he's a hold up horse, and the two that beat him were just fitter than him."

Asked whether he could compare Chinchon with Balius, Laffon-Parias added: "Balius was a very good traveller, which was important, but I would say that at this stage in his career Chinchon is the better horse. He's only just four, and is still improving. The ground shouldn't be a problem, and I hope there is some pace in the race, as that would help his chances. I'm not too worried about the draw as it's not a huge field, but somewhere in the middle would be ideal."

Australian trainer David Hayes was back at his old stamping ground at Sha Tin - where he sent out 458 winners over nine seasons - to witness the finishing touches to Niconero's preparation for the APQEII Cup.

Hayes regards the five-time Gr.1 winner a far more mature and improved specimen than the one who disappointed in the Champions Mile in 2006 and said: "Now he's got company, when he travels and arrives in the stable he's just a lot better and happier. Physically, to the eye he looks better than he did last month in Dubai [when fourth in the Duty Free]. He's been in work since June and in his preparation he's been getting better and better."

Niconero, who can be difficult to handle in his work, was again inclined to hang as he cantered on the outside of the all-weather track under regular work rider Lizzie Jelfs and Hayes described the workout as typical of the seven-year-old.

"By his standards he was pretty good this morning. When he gallops he goes on the inside of the track, so when you put him on the rail he knows it's time to go. When we are switching him off we like to keep him out wide.

"With a good barrier we would be confident of a first-three finish," Hayes continued, "Dubai has given me a lot of confidence and I think he's a little bit better now than in Dubai and going right-handed is not an issue either."

Champions Mile runner Dao Dao last year finished eighth in the same race when trained in Hong Kong by John Size but now that responsibility has been entrusted to nine-times Sydney champion, John Hawkes.

"Dao Dao has really furnished since he was here last year. He's a little more mature now and his experience of Hong Kong will stand him in good stead. He's very relaxed and done very well since he's been back.

"He's a touch fresh this morning but he'll have a nice gallop tomorrow to put him cherry-ripe for Sunday. This is only his third run in this preparation so he's a fresh horse," said Hawkes, fielding just his second runner outside of Australia in his long career.

"I think the best is yet to come with this horse irrespective of what happens on Sunday. I think he's a genuine Gr.1 horse and we didn't come all this way for fun. We're trying to win."

Collection topped off his preparation for Sunday's HK$12m Champions Mile with a pleasing gallop on the dirt this morning under big race jockey Darren Beadman

"It was pretty handy piece of work. He was upsides another horse in the yard [Sea Treasure] and he did what I asked him to do without any fuss."

Asked if Collection was in the same sort of form as when victorious in the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby last month, Beadman replied: "Every bit as good, if not better. Coming back to the mile won't be a problem because he settles and they'll go a decent pace as well to help him along."

Alexandros is Godolphin's hope in the Champions Mile, the first international Breeders’ Cup Challenge qualifying race of 2009 with the winner earning an automatic starting berth into the US$2m Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita Park on 7 November.

This morning the attractive chestnut, third in the Dubai Duty Free on 28 March, was the only of the international runners to work on the turf track, although the term 'work' might stretch the description of his languid exercise.

Alexandros, partnered again by John Bramhill, lobbed up the home straight in his own time and Claire Sparkes, Godolphin's travelling head lass, later commented: "He did a good piece of work in Dubai last Saturday and he's fit and well - in great form. He'll like the ground and Frankie [Dettori] is really looking forward to riding him on Sunday."

There has never been a British-trained winner of the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, but there is certainly no lack of confidence that Presvis could break that hoodoo in this fifteenth international edition of the Sha Tin spectacular.

Charlie Henson, assistant trainer to Newmarket's Luca Cumani, was buzzing after the horse had completed some light exercise on the sand: "He's improved and improved and seems to me to be in grand form since arriving from Dubai [where he ran past ten Group One winners in the stretch to grab second place in the Dubai Duty Free]. Not only is he really relaxed but just take a look at his hind-quarters - they have really developed in the last few months."

However growing confidence also seems to be coming from the camp of South African raider and defending champion Archipenko, whose one disappointment came when he finished four places further behind Presvis at Nad Al Sheba.

"We're on target," beamed Kevin Shea to the group of international journalists after Archipenko had breezed round the all-weather and added: "I also really believe he's a more mature horse now compared to this time last year. " And that sounds quite a compliment considering how impressive the Mike De Kock-trained horse was when he sizzled up the Sha Tin straight last April.

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