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Barzalona hopes to time it right on latest Hong Kong mission

November 24, 2023 at 4:16:59 AM

The two most recent memories of French ace Mickael Barzalona lodged with Hong Kong's passionate fans is a pair of late dashes.

The two most recent memories of French ace Mickael Barzalona lodged with Hong Kong's passionate fans is a pair of late dashes.

In 2020, he drove Ricky Yiu-trained veteran Jolly Banner through the field to be second in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), failing by half a length to reel in Ryan Moore and Japanese flyer Danon Smash.

Twelve months later, he flashed home wide and fast aboard Elon to catch Zac Purton and Shining Gem in the shadow of the Happy Valley winning post to land the fourth and final leg of the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC), a performance which earned him a share of second place on the final podium.

That was Barzalona’s best finish in four attempts at the LONGINES IJC stretching back to his debut in 2016, while the chance to improve his record in 2022 went begging when a last-minute medical issue cost him his place in the 12-rider lineup, as well as a second-placed finish on Botanik in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) four days later.

Now 32, Barzalona has once again enjoyed a fine season in France, including an upset success aboard Marhaba Ya Sanafi in the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (1600m) for former Hong Kong-based trainer Andreas Schutz, and he returns to Hong Kong with success at both Happy Valley and Sha Tin in his sights.

Of his latest challenge for a share of HK$1 million in prizes, Barzalona says: “The LONGINES IJC is the most competitive jockeys challenge in the world and it's a pleasure to be invited once again.

“It’s a couple of years since I had the chance to ride in the competition and it’s great to be heading over there again and to be the French flag-bearer.”

When reminded of his late lunge on Elon from stall 10 in the 1200 metre finale to the 2021 LONGINES IJC, Barzalona says: “It’s true that Happy Valley has its own particularities and the tactics can vary depending on where you’re drawn. It's always a wonderful evening.”

Barzalona will extend his stay to Sunday, when Horizon Dore has a serious chance of giving Europe a first success in the HK$36 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) since Snow Fairy struck in 2010.

Trained in the South of France by Patrice Cottier, the three-year-old son of Dabirsim could cap a memorable year for his part-owners, the Chehboub Family (Gousserie Racing), who also own 50 per cent of the 2023 G1 Prix du Jockey Club (2100m) and 2023 G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) winner, Ace Impact.

Horizon Dore rattled off three consecutive Group race wins at 2000 metres on good ground in France before chasing home King Of Steel and Via Sistina in the G1 Champion Stakes last month.

“He ran really well at Ascot where unfortunately the ground was very heavy,” says Barzalona, who earlier in the year scored in the G2 Prix Eugene Adam (2000m) and the G2 Prix Dollar (2000m), on both occasions conserving Horizon Dore’s potent finishing kick until inside the final 400 metres.

“He’d been winning his races quite easily and, you have to remember, it was his first time travelling outside France and we raced on a very deep track.

“He was a bit lit up early on and the ground was extremely heavy going down into the dip at Swinley Bottom, and that certainly cost him when it came to his finishing effort. But despite that he ran a very credible third.”

Barzalona is convinced that the likely set-up of the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup will play to the strengths of Horizon Dore, who will be in receipt of three pounds in weight-for-age from older rivals likely to include defending champion and recent G1 W.S. Cox Plate (2040m) hero Romantic Warrior.

“Back on good ground and with a decent rhythm to the race I think you’ll see the best of him,” says Barzalona.

“Normally he relaxes very well and saves his energy to produce a great turn of foot.”

Godolphin and master trainer Andre Fabre are also likely to send the tough and consistent four-year-old Tribalist for the HK$32 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m).

Barzalona says of the son of Farhh: “He’s a horse who can keep up a real gallop and who is very tough. He won the other day at Saint-Cloud on heavy ground, he is improving and he hasn’t had a really hard year. This is a great end-of-year objective for him.”

Happy Valley and Sha Tin are renowned for their ability to produce drama in a finish and it would be no surprise if Mickael Barzalona is the one playing his cards late.

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