12/12/2009 12:00AM

Vision d'Etat back at his favored distance

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France is in line for a big day at Sha Tin on Sunday when Vision d'Etat and Cirrus des Aigles hold strong chances in two of the four Group 1 races on the $8 million Hong Kong International Races card. One of the best 10-furlong horses in the world, Vision d'Etat goes in the 1 1/4-mile, $2.6 million Hong Kong Cup, while the in-form and improving Cirrus des Aigles should be ideally suited to the 1 1/2 miles of the $1.8 million Hong Kong Vase.

The winner of the 2008 French Derby at 1 5/16 miles, the Eric Libaud-trained Vision d'Etat was at his best when landing the 1 1/4-mile Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. Six for seven lifetime at or about the Hong Kong Cup distance, he can be forgiven his lackluster 10th going 1 1/2 miles last time in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Olivier Peslier, one of the world's best big-race riders, has the call.

The Mike de Kock-trained Eagle Mountain, runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Turf, is the defending Cup titleholder. But he has run only once in the last year, that when a dull ninth in the Group 2 International Mile Trial here Nov. 22.

Much more dangerous is the likely post-time favorite, the rising local star Collection.

A John Moore-trained son of Arc winner Peintre Celebre, Collection burst on the scene when winning the Hong Kong Derby in March over the Cup course and distance. On Nov. 15, he won the Group 2 International Cup Trail by two lengths, beating seven-time Sha Tin Group 1 winner Viva Pataca into seventh place. Darren Beadman will ride.

Luca Cumani sent Presvis to Sha Tin to win the 1 1/4-mile Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup on April 26. The Sakhee 5-year-old returns off a modest second in a listed race on the Lingfield Polytrack last month, but Cumani has warned potential backers that Presvis's main goal this winter will be either the Dubai Duty Free or the Dubai World Cup.

A pair of invading distaffers, 1 1/4-mile, Grade 1 Shuka Sho winner Queen Spumante from Japan, and 1 1/4-mile, Group 2 Pride Stakes winner Ashalanda from France, are both likely to find this step up in class a little too steep.

Vase: Cirrus des Aigles brings streak

Three-time Arc runner-up Youmzain, winless since taking the 1 1/2-mile, Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud in June 2008, is Ladbrokes 7-2 favorite in the 1 1/2-mile, $1.6 million Hong Kong Vase. Kieren Fallon will try and help the Michael Channon trainee break his seven-race losing streak, but the Sinndar 6-year-old may come up short again. The relatively unknown Cirrus des Aigles could be the spoiler this time.

The ultra-consistent 3-year-old has not been worse than third in his last 16 starts, winning his last two in the 1 1/4-mile, Group 3 Prix du Prince d'Orange and then slamming older horses by six lengths in the 1 1/2-mile, Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris at Longchamp on Oct. 18. Franck Blondel will ride the Corinne Barande-Barbe trainee who is the value play at 12-1.

This year's Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Spanish Moon, fourth most recently in the Breeders' Cup Turf, will be ridden by Ryan Moore for Michael Stoute, who said that "this has been the plan with him for some time. He is still relatively fresh as this is just his fifth start this year."

Viva Pataca is 2 for 3 lifetime over the Vase course and distance at the Group 1 level and is probably better at 12 furlongs than 10 at this stage of his storied career, but there are too many good foreigners in the field to expect yet another victory from the Moore trainee.

An Aga Khan 3-year-old filly, Daryakana, is 4 for 4 lifetime in France, having won the 1 9/16-mile, Group 2 Prix de Royallieu last time at Longchamp. She stays the distance and is another value play at 10-1.

The American hope in the Vase, the John Sadler-trained Black Mamba, has spent the week overcoming a fever that strongly hinders her chances against the toughest field she has ever encountered.

* Ferneley stands a dark-horse chance in the $2 million Hong Kong Mile. A rather unlucky seventh in the Breeders' Cup Mile, the Ben Cecil trained 5-year-old is better judged on his game second to Ventura in the Woodbine Mile. Cecil has picked up the services of Fallon, who should have Ferenley running late through the 2 1/2-furlong stretch.

But is Ferneley good enough to beat Good Ba Ba, the two-time winner of this race? Probably not. Derek Cruz will employ Olivier Doleuze in search of a third Mile title for the Kentucky-bred son of Lear Fan, and Good Ba Ba will be difficult to peg back, although Happy Zero, who beat Sacred Kingdom when winning the International Sprint Trial last month, and Sweet Hearth, who beat Goldikova in the seven-furlong, Group 1 Prix de la Foret on Oct. 3, may have something to say about the outcome.