Arnold gives Douro big tick for Honkers

It has been 18 months since Steven Arnold last sat on the back of Douro Valley, but after a short spin around the Moonee Valley track, the experienced rider was quick to report that the seven-year-old was on top of his game just days before he departs Melbourne to compete in next month's rich Hong Kong International meeting.

Douro Valley, who will be ridden in the Hong Kong Cup on December 14 by Darren Beadman, worked strongly between races at Moonee Valley yesterday with stablemate Ballack, and Arnold said he was confident Douro Valley would run well in Hong Kong.

"He's obviously going well and is in very good form and he hasn't lost any of that," Arnold said. "He's holding his form well."

Douro Valley won the group 1 Yalumba Stakes three runs ago, was unplaced in the Caulfield Cup and then finished a game second in the Sandown Classic a fortnight ago behind Zipping.

Arnold last rode Douro Valley when he was nosed out by another subsequent Group 1 winner, Sarrera, in the 2007 Warrnambool Cup, but the galloper has developed into one of the country's best weight-for-age horses since then.

Both Douro Valley and Ballack worked over 1600 metres yesterday, quickening over the final 600 metres. Douro Valley led and was challenged before the home turn, but on the line held a comfortable margin over his lower-rated stablemate. Ballack, who was ridden by Stephen Baster yesterday, is being considered for a tilt at the Perth Cup on January 1.

Beadman, who is currently riding on contact in Hong Kong, has been confirmed as Douro Valley's rider in the Hong Kong Cup. His regular rider, James Winks, only comes out of suspension that morning and it was decided he wouldn't have had the ideal grounding to be at his best in the rich international event.

By Andrew Eddy

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Photo by Bruno Cannatelli, to view Bruno's website click here

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