Lim’s Kosciuszko draws well in two
Singapore’s Hong Kong Mile contender has job cut out, but handy barrier is a small plus
HONG KONG - An overheard throwaway remark that barrier No. 2 was “half the battle won” for Lim’s Kosciuszko drew a wry chuckle from trainer Daniel Meagher.
“It’s more like 10 per cent of the battle won,” said the Australian to this writer, whose trip to Hong Kong is sponsored by the Singapore Turf Club.
Such a gate would be a boon for any of the 14 runners vying for top honours in the HK$32 million (S$5.5 million) Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile (1,600m) at Sha Tin on Dec 10.
But Meagher was under no illusions the reigning Singapore Horse of the Year still faced an uphill task.
As a metaphor to the highest Australian mountain (at 2,228m) that he is named after, he has summited that peak, but he still has the Everest (8,849m) to climb.
To Meagher, the low draw would be more akin to starting the ascent on a bright sunny day with clear blue skies.
“Great barrier. There’s good speed in the race and he’ll be able to just switch him off where he’s happy,” he said straight after he drew on behalf of owner Lim Siah Mong, who is scheduled to arrive in Hong Kong on Dec 8.
“Like a few experts say, there’ll be good speed in the race. He should get every opportunity to be where he wants to be, and switch off.
“No excuses there with barrier No. 2 in that type of race. Really happy – and more relaxed now.”
One more frayed nerve was eased further when Hong Kong darling Golden Sixty drew the widest in 14.
Meagher said he would be lying if every bit like that did not help.
But he still respected the three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year, who is looking to make amends for the 2022 defeat to add a third Mile to his bulging trophy cabinet at the age of eight.
“You’d think it will help, but he’s such a good horse that he’ll probably overcome it – as good horses do as we found out in Singapore with our own horses,” he said.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to ride Kosi to his strengths. Hopefully, he’s going good enough to use his turn of foot, that’s his strength.
“I hope he gets around the track well and can travel as far as he can, I’m sure he’ll run well. If he finishes in the first half of the field, we’ll be really happy.”
Such an outcome would probably be less acceptable to Golden Sixty’s connections, despite the horror draw and the long break since the Champions Mile win on April 30.
Trainer Francis Lui echoed all the fans’ dejection when saying he had wished for a luckier hand, but the faith in the winner of 25 of 29 starts remained unshakeable.
“The horse is in a very good condition. Can’t ask for more,” said Lui.
“The owners have been very patient. They are happy to let him come back first-up in the big race.
“Of course, it’s not ideal to draw the widest, but I think there won’t be any pace in the race. I just hope he gets a good run.”
His jockey Vincent Ho had a good pre-race warm-up by becoming the first homegrown jockey to win the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley on Dec 6.
Ho beat a stellar field of 11 other world-renowned jockeys to topscore the annual contest on 20 points – thanks to one win on the David Hayes-trained Tomodachi Kokoroe in the last leg.
Besides the formidable opposition Lim’s Kosciuszko is up against, Meagher still has one niggling worry – which he said is diminishing by the day, but will not totally disappear: Alienation.
From Day 1, Meagher said the Kermadec six-year-old felt a little like a fish out of water, but he was improving – even if it meant piggybacking off a world-famous team on Dec 7.
“He just followed Aidan O’Brien’s horses out this morning. He got on the back of them early just to have something to follow,” he said.
“Aidan was very kind to allow us to do that. His horses did their own thing, we went to the rail and just did 1½ laps of strong, even canter.
“Kosi’s getting better and better every day, but we’re running out of time to make him 100 per cent focused. But what I did with him this morning was fantastic.”
Jockey Wong Chin Chuen, who has guided Lim’s Kosciuszko to seven wins including five at Group 1 level, cannot fault the champion’s form, but agreed that playing away was a concern.
“Here on the way to the track, there are a lot of things to look at. In Singapore, we always work him in the dark,” said the Malaysian jockey, who gives way to Australian jockey Damian Lane on race day.
“Come here and we have to work late in the morning with the bright sun. A lot of things are different from Singapore.
“But I feel he’s a good horse. He picks up quickly, every day, he shows me something and he seems very quick in getting used to it.”
Wong would have been the jockey if not for a four-month suspension incurred for his ride on War Frontier on Sept 30.
He has copped the disappointment on the chin, but still remained committed to his team role as a track rider.
“It’s any jockey’s dream to ride in Hong Kong. Things happen, what to do?” he said.