01/20/2006 12:00AM

Bullish Luck in Sha Tin defense


Bullish Luck defends his Group 1 Stewards Cup title at Sha Tin on Sunday when 14 will start in the first leg of the Hong Kong Triple Crown for older horses.

Co-rated with the Japanese-trained Asakusa Den'en as Asia's leading miler on the 2005 World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings, Bullish Luck is one of five horses in the one-mile, $1.034 million contest who will be saddled by Tony Cruz.

Fourth last time in the Hong Kong Mile on Dec. 11, Bullish Luck earned last year's Hong Kong Mile championship by nosing out Silent Witness in the Champions Mile in May. Felix Coetzee has the ride.

Challenging will be The Duke and Dave's Best. They were second and third in the Hong Kong Mile, and Dave's Best will retain the services of French champion rider Christophe Soumillon. Best Gift, a course-and-distance Group 3 winner in October, has a dark horse's chance.

Vengeance of Rain, recent winner of the Hong Kong Cup, was withdrawn from the race on Thursday by order of the stewards after he was found to have an irregular heartbeat.