sport

Aigles well ahead of Cup bid

Cirrus Des Aigles gave trainer Corine Barande-Barbe the right signals on the turf course at Sha Tin ahead of Sunday's Longines Hong Kong Cup.

With those three defeats and the misfortune of being prevented from running in the 2012 Cup owing to an eve-of-race injury, Barande-Barbe could be forgiven for thinking Hong Kong is not a lucky place for last year's world top-rated racehorse.

But after watching Christophe Soumillon steer the seven-year-old for a circuit of a dewy turf track and let him gather momentum to increase the tempo in the final furlong and a half, she feels that this could finally be his year.

"I know he has never won here, and he has his own ways, but I think he has been a little unfortunate," she said.

"Every time previously something has gone wrong but don't be fooled because I really believe he loves it here. When he went out this morning he was immediately alert and enjoying himself noticing the surroundings with which he is so familiar.

"Christophe said the pleasing thing was that just before breaking into his work the horse suddenly wanted to go, he didn't have to ask him."

Soumillon believes Longchamp and soft ground are the optimum circumstances for Cirrus Des Aigles, winner of the Group Two Prix Dollar this year for a third time, to be seen at his best.

But Barande-Barbe has few concerns that the terrain on Sunday will be the exact opposite.

She went on: "I think what I saw this morning is a good omen. Cirrus wanted to go without Christophe asking him. The ground is always quick here but that is not an issue, he handles the track and the ground."

Cirrus Des Aigles, whose visits to England have seen him lose out to Frankel and Farhh in the last two running a of the Champion Stakes, perplexed his legion of admirers when taking several races to recapture his sparkle this year.

It was not until late summer that he won the Group Three Prix La Coupe at Maissons-Laffitte which preceded his Dollar triumph.

His trainer added: "As he's got older he's needed more racing to come back to full fitness which was illustrated in his campaign this season. He's got his own ways, but he is giving me the signs I was hoping to see."