12/10/2008 12:00AM

Kip Deville early choice in Hong Kong Mile


Kip Deville has been installed as the 4-1 favorite for Sunday's Hong Kong Mile by two of Britain's leading bookmakers, Ladbrokes and Coral, ahead of defending Mile winner and Hong Kong's Horse of the Year, Good Ba Ba.

The Group 1, $2 million contest at Sha Tin Racecourse has attracted seven Group 1 winners and five Group 2 winners from seven different countries and is the deepest of the four big races on the Hong Kong International Raceday card.

America's best miler, Kip Deville was reported by his exercise rider, Michelle Nevin, to be on course for the race after a gallop around Sha Tin's turf course on Wednesday morning. The Hong Kong Mile will be the first time that Kip Deville - winner of the 2007 Breeders' Cup Mile and second in the race this year - will be running on a right-handed track, but he has been at Sha Tin since Nov. 25 as trainer Rick Dutrow wanted him to be well acclimated to his surroundings before raceday.

One of Kip Deville's opponents in the Mile will be Awesome Gem, trained by Craig Dollase. Winless since June 2007, Awesome Gem won a Grade 2 in January 2007, taking the San Fernando Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita. Both Ladbrokes and Coral list him as 25-1 for the Mile, which will also include Group 1 winners Natagora, Pressing, Bullish Luck, Able One, and Armada.

Corals lists locally trained Viva Pataca as their 2-1 favorite for the 1 1/4-mile, $2.58 million Hong Kong Cup, for which Eagle Mountain, runner-up in this year's Breeders' Cup Turf, is the second choice at 5-2. Of the two American challengers, Out of Control is 14-1 and Artiste Royal 20-1.

Whyte takes jockey competition

Cornelio Velasquez won the first leg of the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley Racecourse in the heart of Hong Kong on Wednesday night, but the American rider eventually faded to finish in a tie for third behind victorious Hong Kong champion rider Doug Whyte in the three-race contest.

Velasquez, fresh off the plane from Japan, where he had ridden Frost Giant to a 12th-place finish at Hanshin in Sunday's Japan Cup Dirt, rode Super Genki, an Australian-bred son of Dehere, to a 1 1/4-length victory in a one-mile, 55-yard turf handicap at 13-1. Velasquez was fifth and ninth in the last two legs of the contest as Whyte swept to the championship by riding the runner-up in all three legs. Garrett Gomez, third aboard Classic Supreme behind Velasquez in the first leg, finished in a tie for fifth. The second and third races in the series went to Germany's defending champ Andrasch Starke and France's Christophe Lemaire, who had ridden Kane Hekili to victory in Sunday's Japan Cup Dirt.