By Steve Moran for the Hong Kong Jockey Club
Santa Ana Lane, the world’s top-rated sprinter who brings genuine star quality to Hong Kong’s Champions Day, arrived safely overnight at Sha Tin ahead of Sunday’s (28 April) G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
The last start winner of the G1 T. J. Smith Stakes (1200m) at Randwick was expected to take the travel from Australia in his stride according to the Anthony Freedman stable.
“The horse has settled in well. Obviously we’ll be monitoring him closely over the next 24 hours but all looks to be fine. He’ll have a couple of easy days before a light workout later in the week. He’s the perfect candidate to travel,” said trainer’s son Sam Freedman, foreman and stable spokesman, “he’s won Group 1 races in four states of Australia and he thrives when we travel him.
“He settles into any new environment very comfortably and, if anything, he does better on the road. He has his regular track rider Will Stewart by his side and I couldn’t imagine there’s any horse better equipped to travel than him.”
Santa Ana Lane is rated a world high 124 after his emphatic three and a half-length win in the T. J. Smith on 6 April and the strength of that form was confirmed last Saturday when Pierata and Osborne Bulls, soundly beaten behind Santa Ana Lane, ran one-two in the G1 All Aged Stakes at Randwick.
The Lope de Vega gelding follows the same path as 2016 Chairman’s Sprint Prize winner Chautauqua who contested the Newmarket Handicap and won the T. J. Smith immediately before coming to Hong Kong as the world’s top-rated sprinter at 121.
Santa Ana Lane will come off an “ideal” 21-day break into his Hong Kong assignment. “A gap between runs is perfect for him as dad’s strategy has been to keep him very fresh in the latter part of his career and we’ve seen that that’s certainly worked,” Freedman said.
Santa Ana Lane had precisely the same break before winning the G1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) in Queensland last June and a 28-day break before each of his subsequent three wins in New South Wales and Victoria.
The gelding had a solid work-out, pre-departure, on Saturday morning. “His work was excellent and Will (Stewart) thinks he’s going as well as ever and, if anything, he probably took a little bit of improvement out of the T. J. (Smith). He’s in good shape and obviously it was good to see his form franked on the weekend,” Freedman said.
The 10-time winner of AUD$5,069,711 is proven right and left-handed and on good, soft and heavy ground. “Really, nothing seems to faze him and his last win was arguably his best so hopefully we’re coming at the right time,” Freedman said.
Victory in Hong Kong would certainly confirm his world ranking and set up the possibility of a clash with Blue Point at Royal Ascot in June although plans post-Hong Kong have not been confirmed.
A trip to England, Sydney’s The Everest, the G1 VRC Sprint Classic at Flemington (which he won last year) and a return to Hong Kong in December, for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), are all possibilities for the five-time G1 winner.
Hugh Bowman will take the Chairman’s Sprint Prize ride on Santa Ana Lane as his regular riders Mark Zahra (suspended) and Ben Melham (injured) are unavailable.
Anthony Freedman will arrive in Hong Kong on Friday.