Among the four Group 1 treats on Sunday’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races card, only Mile hotpot Beauty Generation holds a bigger ratings edge over his rivals than Waldgeist, yet the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase contender has been surrounded by questions ever since a lacklustre performance in the LONGINES Breeders’ Cup Turf.
A model of consistency during his four-year-old campaign, Waldgeist had arrived at Churchill Downs off the back of a fine fourth in the Arc, beaten less than two lengths by Enable.
That margin grew to a yawning 13 1/4 lengths in the USA, giving rise to fears that the Andre Fabre-trained son of Galileo might be beginning to pay the price of his efforts during the year.
Fabre’s wife Elisabeth has arrived in Hong Kong to supervise the last stages of preparation for the yard’s two runners - Inns Of Court flies the flag for Godolphin in the Mile - and was encouraged by what she saw in both cases.
After watching the two horses canter on the all-weather on Saturday morning, Madame Fabre reflected on Waldgeist’s run in the Breeders’ Cup.
“To start with he was drawn badly and then the ground was very testing,” she said, “We were hoping that he could be third in that race but he is a horse that usually accelerates and he just didn’t find that gear. He was beaten [by Enable] a lot further but more than that it was the way that he ran that was really notable.
“Was he a bit tired? I don’t know. But here he seems well. It’s pretty late for a horse like him that has run in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, run in the Arc, run in everything. Every race he has so much energy and shows huge heart. It’s easy to say it’s late in the year but to me he still seems bright and well.”
Madame Fabre is a near constant presence on the Chantilly training gallops of a morning and asserted that no searching tests were set for Waldgeist in his final piece of work before being given the green light to travel for the HK$20 million Vase.
Waldgeist was one of several international horses to give a little jig and a jink to mark his wellbeing as he headed out to exercise on Saturday morning, a pleasant surprise for his entourage.
“When he came out onto the track he showed all the signs of being fresh and was quite playful,” said Madame Fabre. “I had been a bit worried what I might find but I think he looks rather happy and lively.”
Inns Of Court has yet to match his dual Group 1-winning stablemate’s levels of achievements - though only the late lunge of fellow Mile contender One Master denied him a breakthrough success in the Prix de la Foret - but has looked on excellent terms with himself all week under work-rider Vincent Champion.
Madame Fabre believes the son of Invincible Spirit has plenty in his favour ahead of the stiffest challenge of his career.
“Inns Of Court is really well and has been a little unlucky to date but he is always there at the finish,” she said. “Both the horses are drawn well, which is important here, while the turf in Hong Kong is always perfect and suits everyone.”
The Fabre team are trying to concentrate on only the things that they can control. Asked if she had seen footage of Beauty Generation’s demolition job in the G2 Jockey Club Mile, she said with a smile: “I haven’t. I don’t want to scare myself.”