Veterans out to prove they can still put on a show at Hong Kong

Often the careers of flat racing’s heroes can be too fleeting, but in Cirrus Des Aigles, Red Cadeaux and Sole Power, the Hong Kong International races on Sunday morning at Sha Tin will be graced by three true international superstars.
Cirrus Des Aigles returns to Hong Kong for another campaign at Sha Tin Racecourse. Vince Caligiuri / Getty Images
Cirrus Des Aigles returns to Hong Kong for another campaign at Sha Tin Racecourse. Vince Caligiuri / Getty Images

Often the careers of flat racing’s heroes can be too fleeting, but in Cirrus Des Aigles, Red Cadeaux and Sole Power, the Hong Kong International races on Sunday morning at Sha Tin will be graced by three true international superstars.

Red Cadeaux lines up for his 48th start in the Vase. Sole Power has a second bite of the cherry after last season’s second in the Sprint on what will be his 44th race.

Cirrus Des Aigles is one of the most experienced campaigners in international racing, having lined up in 60 races, and will compete in the special administrative region for the fifth time when he tries to better his third place in the Cup 12 months ago.

The combined age of the European globetrotters is a staggering 23. Between them, they have travelled to Hong Kong 12 times.

“The longevity of these horses and their like is remarkable,” trainer Ed Dunlop said. “Red Cadeaux has now travelled some 250,000 kilometres and raced 77 miles, and still he keeps going.”

With age comes experience, but as we all know, so does idiosyncrasy. Routine keeps the elderly ticking along, but in athletes, especially equine ones, it can sometimes make them go stale.

“We have changed his routine a bit back at home and here,” said Jean-Jacques Poincelet, the assistant trainer to Cirrus Des Aigles. “It is probably the only time since we’ve been coming over here that he hasn’t gone on the turf in the week leading into the race. He also followed a lighter regime in France.”

Sift through the form of Cirrus Des Aigles and it is easy to spot that the eight-year-old gelding prefers soft ground – he beat Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe heroine Treve on rain-softened ground at the Prix Ganay in April.

Trainer Corine Barande-Barbe said that the reason for this apparent preference is, in fact, due to an old injury.

“I think he’s always relished softer ground because it’s felt safer to him,” she said.

“On a firmer surface, he wants to be in control and make sure he’s got his footing right, to better feel the leg that hurt him at some stage earlier in his career.

“It’s not that he has got a special ability on softer ground, only that he looks for the safest option.”

Red Cadeaux has not won since he edged Japanese runner Jaguar Mail in the Vase in 2012 but has run some memorable races in defeat, including finishing second in the Dubai World Cup. He was also twice runner-up in the Melbourne Cup.

Red Cadeaux contests the Vase for the fourth time, having also finished third and fourth in the 2,400-metre race.

Sole Power is seven years old and has competed at the Dubai World Cup Carnival the past four seasons.

However, age may be catching up with him as the Irish raider did not take the flight east very well and lost 10 kilograms.

Trainer Edward Lynam is hopeful his runner can collect a third win at the highest level this season.

“This horse never shirks a battle and his style of racing – sitting way off the pace – is untypical of a sprinter,” Lynam said. “He is electric and a real ‘box office’ horse.

“He’s got a decent chance, as there is no exceptional horse this year.”

sports@thenational.ae

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Published: December 13, 2014 04:00 AM

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