Daliapour fancied to lift Vase for Stoute

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The Independent Online

The guns will blaze over Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong tomorrow night, a report to signal the beginning of the most significant racing week in the history of the former colony.

The guns will blaze over Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong tomorrow night, a report to signal the beginning of the most significant racing week in the history of the former colony.

The International Jockeys' Championship is the centrepiece for a meeting of distinction, yet this is just the dim sum before the feast of Sunday and the third richest race meeting in the world slightly further out of town at Sha Tin. Sunday's will be the first triple Group One meeting staged in Hong Kong. The Cup, the Mile and the Vase, will also be joined by the Hong Kong Sprint, the richest 1,000m turf sprint in the world, which has been elevated to Group Three status.

The festivities start though at the track which was Hong Kong's only racecourse until 1978. Happy Valley is centrally situated and best seen at night, when it is framed by the great dominoes of illuminated skyscrapers and office blocks.

In last year's International Jockeys' Championship there was victory for Frankie Dettori from Olivier Peslier and Kieren Fallon. The recuperating Irishman is not back 12 months on, when further aspirants will include the new champion jockey, Kevin Darley, Japan's pin-up, Yutaka Take, and this year's Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, Kent Desormeaux.

While officials hope that Sunday will be a beginning - for Hong Kong's sphere of influence in the global game - it also represents a climax beyond the last major meeting of the calendar year. The Hong Kong Cup is the 11th and final leg of the Emirates World Series, which set out with the Dubai World Cup at Nad Al Sheba nine months ago.

Dubai Millennium won that inaugural contest, but neither he nor the other stellar names of the year 2000 of Sinndar or Montjeu will be crowned world champion under the floodlights. It may seem undeserved, but if either Samum or Fantastic Light win the Cup, they will become the best horse in the world, by one set of rules at least. If neither succeeds then Giant's Causeway will top the pile and some sort of justice may be seen to be done.

Godolphin's Fantastic Light, who was third in the Japan Cup, is 3-1 joint-favourite with Coral Eurobet. He shares this position with François Doumen's Jim And Tonic, who goes for a hat-trick at the meeting. He won the Bowl in 1998 and the Cup last year.

Daliapour, the Coronation Cup winner, is 7-2 co-favourite to gild a big year for Sir Michael Stoute in the Vase. This is his last race for the Newmarket trainer as the colt has been sold to Robert Ng, a leading property dealer in Hong Kong and will continue his racing career in the Orient. Another Newmarket Michael, Michael Jarvis saddles another of the co-favourites, the Japan Cup fourth, Ela Athena.

The Mile is priced up to be at the mercy of Sunline, the dual winner of Australia's Cox Plate. She is one of the best horses ever to come out of the Antipodes, having won 21 of her 29 starts. The Sprint, however, is another race which could fall to Europe. Nuclear Debate is the highest- rated dragster on this continent and if he reproduces the form of either his King's Stand Stakes victory at the Royal meeting or in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York he will be virtually impossible to beat.

With this being Hong Kong, there is the prospect that Sunday's biggest winner will not be a jockey, owner or trainer, but rather a little man clutching a little bit of paper. The mouthwatering Triple Trio Jackpot is to be topped up by funds from the Jackpot Reserve to encourage the hopeful to attempt to pick the first three in any order in three designated races. It is estimated that if there is just one $10 winning ticket the payout could be as much as $60m (£5.5m).

HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL RACES (Sha Tin, Sunday): Coral prices: The Vase: 7-2 Catella, Daliapour & Ela Athena, 7-1 Helene Vitality, 8-1 Craigsteel & Indigenous, 12-1 Caitano & Val's Prince;

The Mile: 7-4 Sunline, 3-1 Fairy King Prawn, 7-1 Electric Unicorn, 10-1 Last Resort & Testa Rossa, 14-1 Adam, Faberger, New Trumps & Sugarfoot;

The Cup: 3-1 Fantastic Light & Jim And Tonic, 9-2 Greek Dance, 7-1 Industrialist, 10-1 Samum, 12-1 Elle Danzig & Forbidden Apple;

The Sprint: 9-4 Nuclear Debate, 4-1 King Of Danes, 6-1 Bertolini & Big Jag, 10-1 Best Of The Best & Superb Effect, 12-1 Morluc, 14-1 Crystal Charm, 16-1 Eastern Purple & Plenty-Plenty.