Racing: Tonic has the fizz for Cup hat-trick in Cup

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THE WAR may be over, yet there will be a battle of some symbolism here at the Sha Tin race track tomorrow afternoon. Daylami, the great grey, may already be the nominal champion racehorse on the planet via success in the Emirates World Series but the Hong Kong Cup, the final leg of the championship, remains a contest of significance.

It will be the first time the 2000-metre race carries Group One status, on a card which takes to a new level the former colony's desire to establish itself as a global force. The local horses may be no dream-machines but Hong Kong knows how to get them here. It simply opens its chubby wallet.

Four races tomorrow will be worth between them HK 30 million dollars (pounds 2.5m), and organisers tells us that with around 40 horses competing from both hemispheres and four continents this is the most international race meeting there has ever been. In the Cup itself there is no Daylami, indeed no athlete of massive distinction, yet it is hard to imagine the race is much beyond the seedling stage.

When the pampered participants return to their global villages next week, they will take with them stories of the enormous largesse bestowed. You can be treated like the royalty which no longer controls Hong Kong and return from here with a Prince's ransom. It is a message which will arrive at the most influential of doors.

Godolphin, the world's premier stable, are already here with three runners, including Kabool in the Cup. The four-year-old was third to Alborada in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket, form which gives him a sprightly chance. Philip Mitchell's Running Stag beat Lear Spear, who is trained by David Elsworth, in a gallop on the all-weather yesterday, but back on turf tomorrow the positions are likely to be reversed. Most persuasive of all though is France's Jim And Tonic, who is two for two on his trips to Hong Kong.

Tim Pinfield may not be as well known in Britain as Francois Doumen, but he is British. He was a jump jockey of minor achievement, but, at 33, he is a trainer of immediate impact in America. Pinfield sends out Big Jag in the Sprint. Big Jag was third to Artax, who will probably be America's Horse of the Year, in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. "He has never raced on the grass, he has never raced on a straight and his best form is over six furlongs, so there is a worry," is Pinfield's caveat.

Go then for Sainte Marine, who is the fastest filly in the field and just about the fastest filly anywhere. A course record is expected. The final race of Docksider's career comes in The Mile and John Hills's colt, who was third in the Breeders' Cup Mile, looks outstanding.

The Vase is more competitive with familiar names such as Silver Patriarch, Fruits Of Love, Sea Wave and Borgia among the contestants. The one the headline writers are on their knees for though is Rogan Josh who last month provided Bart Cummings with his 11th Melbourne Cup. They don't come bigger in Australia than old Bart who has racked up 242 Group One victories in his 45-year career.

Cummings has a soft spot for Rogan Josh, even though he has been training him for just four months. "Rogan Josh did not race at all until age four. Believe me, there's quite a story to this horse," Cummings said.

Bob and Wendy Green, who live in Darwin, own the seven-year-old. The Green home is 4,000 kilometres from Melbourne and for their little treasure's last two outings they have driven the round trip twice. "It's not a bad drive, unless the kangaroos are really active, and they were," Wendy said. "We saw hundreds of the red ones hopping around."

It is an international image which appeals to those in the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Now they hope everyone else is as taken with the spectacle in the land of the dragon tomorrow.