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Zipse At The Track

Bayrir in search of Hong Kong riches

If history has taught us anything in the Hong Kong Vase, it’s that the 1 ½ mile turf affair is no easy task for a three-year-old to win. In fact, the only two sophomores to prove victorious so far in the first 18 runnings of the rich event are a pair of fillies, Vallee Enchantee and Daryakana. The latter won the Vase back in 2009 carrying the colors of His Highness the Aga Khan, while trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre. Those same connections are back this year with Bayrir, a colt that may just have the talent and class to end the drought for three-year-old males at Sha Tin. 

I was extremely impressed when I saw their charge in person back in August, when he shipped in from France to dominate the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. Making only his fifth lifetime start, the son of Medicean colt came from off the pace that afternoon to power to the front and easily dispatch of a solid cast of American grass horses. It was the type of performance that you do not easily forget after seeing in living color. Since then the colt has been unsuccessful in two starts back in France, but nothing that cannot be excused.

His first start after returning to Europe saw him finish a strong second in the Group 2 Prix Niel. It was his first try at the mile-and-a-half trip, and the horse that beat him, Saonois, was far more experienced, as well as being one of the more classy sophomores in all of Europe. Then came the big one, the Arc, and Bayrir could only manage a middle-of-the-pack finish, but when you consider not only the depth of quality in that field, but also the bog-like surface that day at Longchamp, I have lost little faith in this colt’s ability. 

If Bayrir is to find his riches in the Far East tomorrow, he will need to handle a deep group of quality turf horses that all possess more racing experience than him. Chief among them may be the defending champion, Dunaden. Last year the distance loving six-year-old parlayed success in Australia’s biggest race, the Melbourne Cup, into a big win in the Hong Kong Vase. This year, he is coming off a failed attempt to repeat in Australia, but before that had strong form, including a win in the prestigious Caulfield Cup. Regular rider, Craig Williams, who rode him to triumph at Sha Tin last year, is back in the saddle again tomorrow.

Another threat in the Vase, and one familiar to North American race fans, is the well traveled, Joshua Tree. His third attempt in the Grade 1 Canadian International this fall produced his second win, to go along with a second place finish last year. The son of Montjeu has been in solid form all year for trainer Marco Botti, and as he proved once again at Woodbine, his ability to get to the lead and keep on going is always a threat in these distance affairs.
Perhaps I am guilty of being a little bit of a homer in expecting success from the young horse that looked so good at Arlington, against these older tigers in the Hong Kong Vase. I will stand firm, though, as Bayrir is a horse I continue to like, and I believe an international coming-out party may be in the works.
Photo courtesy of Four Footed Fotos 


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Meet Brian Zipse 

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, and American Pharoah. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. 

As Editor of Horse Racing Nation, Brian authors a daily column as Zipse at the Track, or ZATT for short, and adds his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of Directors of The Exceller Fund. Brian also consults for leading contest site Derby Wars, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 
A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.


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