Board game for Vase assignment

Ed Dunlop believes Ouija Board will improve on her Japan Cup defeat when contesting the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase on Sunday.

Ed Dunlop believes Ouija Board will improve on her Japan Cup defeat when contesting the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase on Sunday.

The Newmarket trainer watched Kieren Fallon put the Cape Cross filly through her paces on the all-weather track at Sha Tin and suggested the four-year-old would have ideal conditions in the Far East.

Dunlop opted for the mile and a half Vase after giving serious consideration to a late switch to the shorter Hong Kong Cup over a mile and a quarter.

It was the first time Fallon had sat on Lord Derby’s charge since the combination finished fifth to Alkaased in the Japan Cup, a race in which she made her bid for glory early in the long home straight.

Dunlop indicated that he would be disappointed if the Vase was not contested off a strong pace due to the number of staying types entered in the race.

He said: “They say Saturn will make the running and as there are a lot of staying horses in the race I’d be surprised if it turned into a crawl.

“She’s adaptable, possesses tactical speed and hopefully Kieren will get her into a nice position.

“I admit I was tempted by the Cup, but stuck to going a mile and four furlongs which I know is her optimum distance.

“She lost very little weight in Japan and within 48 hours was four kilos above her racing weight. She flew in from there the following Friday and I think she could easily improve from it.

“Hopefully she can emulate Phoenix Reach who finished fifth in Japan and then won here.”

A flurry of support for Ouija Board has forced her Vase odds down to as short as 2-1 with Coral.

And with quick conditions a certainty, Dunlop is not going to use the conditions in Hong Kong as an excuse.

He added: “The ground’s fine and, as long as she’s okay physically, I won’t blame it on the ground if she gets beat.

“She still has her summer coat and looks magnificent.”

Clive Brittain took the unorthodox step of equipping Warrsan with cheekpieces for his work on the dirt ahead of the race.

The Carlburg trainer said: “He’s seven years old which is like being 70 if you’re a human.

“This is his Viagra to stimulate him, but he won’t wear the cheekpieces in the race itself.”

Brittain, who will keep Warrsan on the dirt for the remainder of his prep work, added: “We won’t be working on the grass here.

“I made the mistake of letting him do some very fast times on the grass in Japan and he overdid himself.”

Elie Lellouche must adhere the stringent rules of the Hong Kong Jockey Club when using earplugs on Ascot Gold Cup winner Westerner.

The Hong Kong view is that for fairness to ensue, the six-year-old must not have his earplugs removed until after he has finished the race and will be inserted with them while he is being saddled.

Lellouche said: “The earplugs help him concentrate and will be fitted in the paddock.

“We’ve been told we can’t throw them out at any time before or during the race.”

David Elsworth was pleased with what he saw after Norse Dancer led Hong Kong Cup candidate Alexander Goldrun going anti-clockwise on the turf course.

This will be Norse Dancer’s swansong before taking up stud duties.

Elsworth said: “He just cantered up the straight. He was fit off the plane and it seemed a good idea to let him have a stretch.

“He’ll like the fast ground on Sunday.”

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