The Dubai Golden Shaheen winner looks good to win the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes, according to trainer, Patrick Shaw.
Rocket Man well prepared to take off on testing track
Rocket Man leads the foreign challenge in Japan on Sunday morning when the Dubai Golden Shaheen winner takes on 16 rivals in the Group 1 Sprinters Stakes.
The six-year-old gelding has won three races since scoring at Meydan racecourse on Dubai World Cup night in March when he finished ahead of the Hong Kong-based Green Birdie, who also lines up alongside stablemate Lucky Nine in the 1,200m contest.
Last season Hong Kong's Ultra Fantasy became the third foreign horse to win the seventh leg of the Global Sprint Challenge since Silent Witness registered his 18th and final career success when winning in 2005.
Felix Coetzee was aboard Silent Witness that day and the jockey's experience of the tricky track at Nakayama, and the local customs, will be invaluable in the hunt for a slice of the 197 million yen (AED4.5m) purse.
"I remember the race every step of the way like it was yesterday," said the South African rider. "It's a track I know and I do hope having prior knowledge of the track will help me. I am also used to their rules here. For example, all jockeys riding at the weekend must be kept on curfew from Friday and I don't have a problem with that."
Nakayama racecourse features a downhill back stretch of 200 metres that leads to a sweeping 400m right-hand turn before the field negotiate a sharp bend to encounter a punishing uphill straight of 310m.
It is a track that tests the stamina of the best sprinters but Patrick Shaw, the trainer, has ensured that his charge is well prepared for the challenge ahead.
"I have taken him up a lot for a few burns up the hill at home so it shouldn't be a problem. At the moment it is all systems go," he said.
Rocket Man has raced just twice around a right-hand bend, both times at Sha Tin, where he dead-heated with One World in November before he was edged out by JJ The Jet Plane in the Hong Kong Sprint three weeks later.
"After working on the course every morning, the horse is much better running right-handed than he was in Hong Kong," Shaw added. "We'd like to see him on the pace, one or two off the fence, and from then on we'd like to see him in the first three coming into the straight and kick on."
Rocket Man's chances could be further advertised tonight when Euroears faces eight rivals in the Vosburgh Stakes on the 'Super Saturday' card at Belmont Park.
Euroears finished fourth in the Golden Shaheen and took the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar in August. Bob Baffert's seven-year-old clashes with Big Drama, the 2010 Breeders Cup winner, and the improving Trappe Shot, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, the Dubai World Cup-winning handler. The Vosburgh is one of five Grade 1 races staged at the New York course tonight that act on a "Win and You're In' basis for the Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs in November.
Other notable runners at the track include Cape Blanco, owned by Fitri Hay, who contests the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Cape Blanco aims to add Grade 1 victories in the Man O'War Stakes and the Arlington Million having disappointed in Europe after finishing fourth in the Dubai World Cup.
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE