Contesting the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) for the first time, Australian Damian Lane hopes to capitalise on a strong book of rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday night (8 December) to enhance an already impressive global resume.
Famed for Group 1 success on Japanese runners in both Australia and Japan, Lane will partner Salios in the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) and Computer Patch in the Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (12 December), intending to use the IJC as a springboard into the weekend’s action.
Reflecting on the chances of Flying High, Dr Winning, Gallant Crown and California Cible on Wednesday night, Lane agreed he had fared well in terms of ride allocation.
“I’m hoping so (to win). Just very privileged to be part of the IJC. It’s the first time I’ve competed in this series and I’ve got some really nice rides and I’m really looking forward to competing in it,” Lane, 27, said, identifying former Australian galloper California Cible – who contests the fourth leg of the IJC – as a winning chance.
“He’s drawn a touch tricky (gate nine) but he looks to be improving all the time since he’s been here in Hong Kong, which is a big plus.”
Looking ahead to the Hong Kong Mile and a clash with Golden Sixty, Lane said: “I’ve partnered Salios on a number of occasions now. I won on him at his first start in Tokyo and he’s placed twice behind Contrail in Group 1s, so really looking forward to teaming back up with him.
“He looked in fantastic order this morning and I think he will compete really well.
“I really believe he does (have a winning chance), obviously Golden Sixty will be awfully hard to beat but I think if anyone can do it, it will be a Japanese horse and he (Salios) is as good as any of them.”
Fresh off a dominant Melbourne Cup carnival with a record 10 victories across the four meetings, James McDonald is also excited about what might unfold at Happy Valley.
“It’s a meeting that we love competing at, I’ve had a little bit of luck over the years and I definitely wasn’t going to miss it,” said McDonald, who rides Wild West Wing, Sacred Ibis, Invincible Missile and Ginson.
“They look little chances for sure, we’ll need a bit of luck with the barriers for sure but they look an even bunch of rides and so hopefully we get a bit of luck in the run and they’ll be figuring in the finish.
“I’ve got plenty of rides, so obviously looking forward to it. Happy Valley, I’ve been there before and obviously I have fond memories of it. Looking forward to getting back around there.
“Melbourne Cup week was a great week and hopefully we can bring that form to IJC.”
McDonald has eight rides on the IJC programme, while Lane has seven mounts.
McDonald will pair with reigning champion trainer Caspar Fownes and Invincible Missile in the Class 3 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship Handicap (1650m), the third leg of the series.
“James is a superstar jockey, I’ve always had a lot of time for James. He just keeps improving and he’s up there with the tops in the world now, he’s definitely up there with and he’s one of the best,” Fownes said. “I’m hoping we can get him to come and ride in Hong Kong full-time because it would be nice to get another big name in Hong Kong.
“Invincible Missile is a horse in good form and he’s proven at the track and distance and hopefully we can get our head in front.”
David Hayes will reunite with Tom Marquand with Awesome Treasure in the Class 4 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship Handicap (1000m), the first leg of the series.
Marquand was temporarily based at Hayes’ Lindsay Park property in rural Victoria on his first Australian visit in 2019.
“Tom came down to Australia for his apprenticeship and he rode a few winners for my stable down there,” Hayes said. “We stuck him on a few and he won a few.
“He’s done extremely well since and especially on his visits to Sydney (with Addeybb), he was a dominant force down there (in Australia) and he’s been a dominant force in England, so we’re very happy to have him on.”
Hayes is optimistic Awesome Treasure, who ran second at his only start, can get Marquand off to a flying start on Wednesday night.
“He led on debut and he was a bit disadvantaged that day with the wind the way it was. Not many held on and he nearly did,” Hayes said. “He’s a very promising horse with a bright future and he’s now fully recovered from a minor leg injury and he’s basically first-up again.
“He’s got nice speed and he’s trialled twice at the Valley, so I thought this would be a nice race for him.”
Alexis Badel will bid to improve on his joint third – with Hollie Doyle – last season when he rides Nothing New for three-time IJC champion Douglas Whyte in the Class 3 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship Handicap (1650m), the third leg of the series.
“The horse seems to be very happy and competitive but it doesn’t seem to be the best draw (barrier eight) but he will certainly run a good race,” the Frenchman said. “He’s a horse who needs a smooth run, so I will see what the pace looks like.
“It’s very exciting and I feel very honoured to be part of the IJC representing Hong Kong and I will try my best for the task and hopefully get a better result.”