x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Dunaden primed for Hong Kong Vase

Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's thoroughbred is expected to impress in the absence of an unfit Sea Moon while several contenders are unfit too.

Dunaden trains at Sha Tin Racecourse. Vince Caligiuri / Getty Images
Dunaden trains at Sha Tin Racecourse. Vince Caligiuri / Getty Images

There is something amiss in Hong Kong. As Sha Tin Racecourse gears up for its well-regarded four Group 1 races this morning, participants are dropping out like flies.

Cirrus Des Aigles was withdrawn from the Hong Kong Cup on Friday after picking up a tendon injury in his left fore.

To lose one international star is unfortunate, but to lose two might appear like carelessness. Sea Moon, Prince Khalid Abdullah's great hope for the Hong Kong Vase, was found with a blood abnormality and was scratched from taking on Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's Dunaden tomorrow.

Christophe Lemaire, who is set to ride Bayrir in the 12-furlong contest, has picked up a nasty dose of influenza and could also miss out.

And it does not end there. Lemaire's touch-and-go status pales in comparison to that of Ambitious Dragon, Hong Kong's dual horse of the year, who faces a race against time to make the line-up to the Hong Kong Mile.

Ambitious Dragon, who was favourite for the Dubai Duty Free on World Cup night, was found lame in his right leg today.

A decision will be made this morning about whether Tony Millard's charge will take part.

Sweet Orange, a Group 1 winner in the former British colony, was also withdrawn from the Hong Kong Cup, after being found lame on Friday. If Sea Moon's late defection is to the disappointment of Prince Khalid Abdullah, it is to the joy of Sheikh Fahad, as Dunaden now appears to have an excellent chance of defending his title in the Vase.

Dunaden fluffed his lines last month in his bid to become the first back-to-back Melbourne Cup winner since Makybe Diva in 2005, and Sheikh Fahad remained hopeful after Dunaden's 10th place at Flemington under Craig Williams, who is also in the saddle tomorrow.

"Obviously it is different than last year when he came here off the back of his Melbourne Cup win and this time he was disappointing there," Sheikh Fahad said.

"He had a bit of a muscle problem then and his work times since have been a couple of seconds slower than last year. However, this course and distance are ideal and we remain hopeful."

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