Valley peaking in time for crack at Vase

Trainer Danny O'Brien has declared Douro Valley near the top of his game as he prepares for Sunday's Hong Kong Vase.

O'Brien said the Yalumba Stakes winner, who is on the sixth line of betting at $12 for the $2.8 million race at Sha Tin, would have a light canter today before a "decent hitout" on the course proper on Thursday.

Darren Beadman, who rode Douro Valley to victory in the Naturalism Stakes last year, will partner him in the Group 1 event.

O'Brien said Douro Valley had travelled well and has had his head in the feed bin since arriving in Hong Kong.

"He's a very happy horse," O'Brien said. "Obviously, it's no gimme, but if we get the right run, I think we're going to be hard to beat.

"If there's not a lot of speed and he can give himself an easy time up on the pace, they are going to have to run good sectionals to get past him.

"It was my intention to take him to Hong Kong from the start of the spring. He's only had one run in eight weeks since the Caulfield Cup and it wasn't a tough run in the Sandown Classic.

"It was a perfect lead-up race for this race and he comes off being beaten in a photo by Zipping, who is one of the best 2400m horses in Australia. He's certainly justified the trip."

Last year's winner, Doctor Dino, is the $4 favourite.

While O'Brien is looking forward to Douro Valley producing something special in the 2400m Vase, fellow Aussie raider Apache Cat is giving trainer Greg Eurell every indication he will be at his peak for Sunday's 1200m Hong Kong Sprint.

Eurell said Apache Cat had recovered the 8kg he dropped on the flight from Melbourne and weighed 538kg, the weight he was when beaten a nose by Takeover Target in the 1200m Winterbottom Stakes at Ascot last month.

He said Apache Cat had settled into his temporary home in the international section of Sha Tin.

"I'm very, very happy with him. Eating and drinking wise, he's great," Eurell said.

"The facilities are fantastic. There is everything you would want. There is room for about 20 horses, but there's just Apache and Douro Valley.

"I'm glad Douro Valley is here or otherwise it would be a bit lonely.

"He just walks outside and stares at the high-rise buildings. He's like me, he's finding it hard to comprehend. In Perth, the paddock he was in, it was nothing for a kangaroo or a peacock to go through and he wouldn't bat an eyelid, but it's so different here."

Eurell has restricted Apache Cat to a light trot and a canter since he arrived last week, but is looking to give him some serious work on Wednesday.

He said Apache Cat didn't have to do much heading into the $2.3 million race, in which he is a $3 favourite with Sportingbet Australia.

"He's pretty much right where I want him," Eurell said.

Meanwhile, Douro Valley's stablemate Master O'Reilly is back in work as he prepares for the 2400m Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba, Dubai, on March 28.

O'Brien said Master O'Reilly would run second-up in the Australian Cup at Flemington on March 7, then head to Dubai for the $7.7 million Sheema Classic.

He said stablemate Barbaricus, accompanied by Valedictum, would travel to Dubai late next month for similar races to those trainer Tony Noonan won with Benedetti two years ago.

By Adrian Dunn

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