FRENCH trainer Andre Fabre commands maximum respect when he takes aim at the Hong Kong International Races and will be doubly represented for this year’s edition on 9 December.
Soon to be crowned Champion Trainer in France for a remarkable 29th time, Fabre has confirmed G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud (2400m) winner Waldgeist for the HK$20 million Hong Kong Vase (2400m) in a bid to land the race for the third time and Inns Of Court will represent him in the HK$25 million Hong Kong Mile (1600m).
One of the leading older horses over a mile and a half in Europe; Waldgeist, the four-year-old son of Galileo has enjoyed a fine season, picking up a pair of Group 2 successes in the Grand Prix de Chantilly and the Prix Foy.
Waldgeist is the $4.50 favourite at online bookmaker Sportsbet to win the Hong Kong Vase.
Waldgeist’s Saint-Cloud victory – which came at the direct expense of fellow Vase contender Salouen – was a second career triumph at Group 1 level, having already demonstrated class and stamina when scoring at the same Parisian venue as a two-year-old.
Waldgeist was beaten just a length and three quarters when fourth behind the outstanding Enable in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe before gaining a first taste of continental travel when fifth behind the same rival in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Churchill Downs.
Fabre said: “I was a bit disappointed with him in America, where he ran a bit flat and didn’t quicken as usual. But now he has recovered really well and he will enjoy Sha Tin racecourse and the fast ground.”
Jointly owned and bred by Newsells Park Stud and Gestut Ammerland, Waldgeist carries the same red and green silks as Borgia, who landed the Vase for Fabre under a rail-hugging ride from Olivier Peslier in 1999.
Runners from the trainer’s Chantilly base have played a major part in the Vase in recent editions: Flintshire was victorious in 2014 before finishing runner-up 12 months later, while Meandre (2012) and the flashy Talismanic (2017) have also produced podium finishes.
Pierre-Charles Boudot will break off from his battle with Christophe Soumillon for the French jockey’s title to keep the partnership with Waldgeist intact, while Godolphin’s retained rider Mickael Barzalona will be aboard Inns Of Court in the HK$25 million Hong Kong Mile, a race Fabre has only targeted once before, finishing fourth in 2015 with Esoterique.
Barzalona will have already got a feel for the week as he heads to Happy Valley on Wednesday, 5 December, for the star-studded International Jockeys’ Championship.
As for Inns Of Court, the son of Invincible Spirit has only tackled a mile three times – all as a three-year-old in 2017 – but produced a career-best effort on ratings when narrowly beaten by stablemate Al Wukair at that trip in the G1 Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville.
Inns of Court is a $17 outsider at Online bookmaker BetEasy to win the Hong Kong Mile.
Inns Of Court’s best effort in 2018 was when caught in the shadow of the post by fellow Mile contender One Master over a turning seven furlongs (1400m) at Longchamp in the G1 Prix de la Foret.
That came on good ground and the likely sound surface of Sha Tin is likely to be much more suitable than the soft conditions encountered on his most recent start over six furlongs (1200m) at Maisons-Laffitte.
“He needed a race in between and remember he was carrying a penalty last time,” said Fabre.
“He ran alright considering the ground and he has already shown he can perform well over a mile in the Marois. He should get a good pace to run at in Hong Kong and, while obviously it’s a very good race, he is a horse that is very consistent and always run well.”