The situation awaiting Adelaide galloper Alcopop as he headed to Hong Kong on Monday is as familiar as it is unwanted and undeserved.
Alcopop is to run in the Group One Hong Kong Cup, the world’s richest 2000m race on turf, at Sha Tin on Sunday week where he will be one of the outsiders in an event that has attracted some of the world’s best.
For his trainer Jake Stephens, the outsider assessment is one he reluctantly became accustomed to during the past spring in Melbourne.
“I got a bit sick of everyone looking at him as though his best runs were some kind of fluke,” Stephens said.
“He deserves to be accepted as the very good horse that he is.”
Alcopop started at lengthy odds in the first two runs of his spring preparation and ran respectable races both times.
He then went out at 20-1 for his third run and finished less than a length behind Ocean Park in the Caulfield Stakes.
A week later he hit the front at the 300m in the Caulfield Cup only to be run down by Dunaden, one of the best horses to run in Australia in recent times.
Ocean Park verified the form by winning the Cox Plate and Alcopop went on to his main spring aim, the Mackinnon Stakes.
“I felt like telling everyone who doubted him to get stuffed after he won the Mackinnon,” Stephens said.
The horse who had run sixth when favourite in the 2009 Melbourne Cup turned out to be one of the most reliable measuring sticks of the 2012 spring carnival, his consistency earning him the invitation to Hong Kong.
“I really hadn’t thought of going but one of his owners insisted on getting him vaccinated just in case,” Stephens said.
Alcopop will line up against a couple of the best 2000m horses in the world at Sha Tin – but only four entries have higher international ratings than the South Australian.
The French star Cirrus Des Aigles who is on his fourth visit to Hong Kong heads the rankings with a rating of 130 ahead of top local hope and reigning Cup champion California Memory on 120.
The next highest-rated is Queen Elizabeth’s Carlton House on 119 and another French runner Saonois on 118 with Alcopop at 116.
Alcopop left for Hong Kong on Monday along with Sydney sprinter Sea Siren.
The Melbourne and Caulfield Cup winner Dunaden leaves Melbourne on Tuesday to prepare for his defence of the Hong Kong Vase (2400m) title he won last year.