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Frankie Dettori misses the biggest meeting of the British Flat season to date to bid for glory in Hong Kong on Sunday.

He bypasses Newbury's Greenham and John Porter Stakes card to partner Godolphin's Iscan in the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (due off at 0900 BST) at Sha Tin.

Dettori won the mile-and-a-quarter event four years ago on Overbury for Sheikh Mohammed's Dubai team, which also struck with Red Bishop (Michael Kinane) in 1995.

Iscan was second in the mile-and-a-half Italian Derby and King Edward VII Stakes for Sir Michael Stoute last year but Godolphin's travelling head lad Steve Avis said: "The form would suggest that his best trip is a mile and a half but he has shown speed in his training at home on sand in Dubai so let's hope he can reproduce that here on the turf."

But French challenger Jim And Tonic (Gerald Mosse) will be hot favourite to repeat last year's win in the Group Two contest and maintain his unbeaten course record.

Also successful at the last two international meetings at Sha Tin, Francois Doumen's six-year-old will have to overcome a wide draw in the 13-runner field.

The trainer's son Xavier said: "It is not ideal but Jim And Tonic can usually take up the position that he wants.

"We will be looking to come from behind off a fast pace so hopefully being wide will not be too much of a disadvantage."

A bigger worry may be the state of the ground after heavy rain, with Doumen Jnr saying: "This weather is something we really did not want.

"Jim And Tonic has won on soft ground but his tremendous acceleration makes him much more affective on quicker conditions."

But Sha Tin clerk of the course John Ridley said: "It dries very quickly here as it is sand-based. Even with the rain that we have had, and if it rains on Saturday as well, it would not ride much softer than good on Sunday."

Charles "Scooter" Dickey is hoping the rain stays away for Thesaurus, America's first runner in the race.

"Thesaurus is used to a firm surface at home and the firmer it is the better for him," he said.

"Even with all this rain I think the ground will be faster here than in Dubai where my horse found the conditions too spongy in the Dubai Sheema Classic."

Thesaurus cantered at Sha Tin today, after which jockey Patti Cooksey said: "This horse is training up to this race real good."

Fourth overseas challenger is New Zealand's The Message, who is expected to improve on last season's unplaced effort.

"He's looking better and stronger than he did last year," said jockey Eric Legrix.

"He's got a good stride on him and will keep galloping all the way and I don't think he'll mind how the ground is."

Also returning for another tilt at the race is the 1999 runner-up Indigenous, trained locally by Ivan Allan, who went on to finish second in the Japan Cup last year.

Others in a nine-strong home team include Housemaster, who was fourth in the Vodafone Derby when trained in Britain last year, and the 1998 QE II Cup winner Oriental Express.

But Doumen jnr predicts that Industrialist, the mount of Alan Munro, could be the biggest threat to Jim And Tonic.

"When he won the Hong Kong Gold Cup recently Industrialist was only a 10th of a second off the time when Jim And Tonic broke the track record here," he said.