Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club
Beautiful Sha Tin, year after year, plays host to the Hong Kong International races. These four events draw champions from around the world, and with them, their fans. It creates a wonderful melting pot of a crowd and exciting, evenly matched races that are on par, if not more competitive, than the Breeders' Cup Championships or Dubai World Cup day.
It ends an exciting week in Hong Kong that really kicked off on Wednesday night at Happy Valley Racecourse with the International Jockey Challenge. That event was captured by Australia's Kerrin McEvoy over familiar surnames like Stephens, Soumillon, and Smith. Then, on Saturday afternoon, the Hong Kong Jockey Club went on with its auction of racing prospects, all of them unnamed geldings. One of them, a chestnut gelding by top sire Exceed and Excel, drew the top price of HK$7.5 million after a stellar breeze over the Sha Tin course.
Finally, the sun rose on a beautiful Sunday in Hong Kong. It was time to launch this international spectacle.
The home team started the action off with a bang. Dominant, under the capable hands of Zac Purton, came from last to sweep home in the Vase, holding off late charges by The Fugue and Dunaden. Veteran Red Cadeaux came home a commendable fourth. The local crowd was exuberant as Dominant entered the winner's circle with Purton, whose season in Hong Kong has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Just a short time later, the stage was set for an astonishing range of emotions.
Lord Kanaloa, a heavy favorite in the field for the Sprint, settled back nicely under Yasunari Iwata and let the pacesetters do their work. It was over at his rider's cue; Japan's defending champion cruised up alongside his rivals and effortlessly drew away under steady urging to win by open lengths. Far behind, the European filly Jwala clipped heels with her rivals and went down; she could not be saved.
Exuberance for Lord Kanaloa's sparkling career finale was tempered by the loss of Jwala. The crowd looked on mournfully as the ambulance and screens shielded her from view.
Two races later, the entrants for the Mile sprang from the gate. The American King Kreesa was on the lead but quickly faded in the straight as favorite Gold-Fun took command. The race was far from over mid-stretch; another local horse, Glorious Days, came with a rush on the outside to sweep by near the wire. Hong Kong captured the trifecta; the highly regarded European fillies, Moonlight Cloud and Sky Lantern, finished off the board.
John Size brought Glorious Days into the race off a sizable layoff - the gelding was last seen finishing off the board in the Yasuda Kinen in early June. It paid off. Size's training tactics gave him his first Hong Kong International win.
Closing out the international action was the Cup, which turned into quite the finish near the wire. Tokei Halo waltzed through a nice lead through most of the race, but when Akeed Mofeed, who had done his running on the rail under Douglas Whyte, got running room, it was all over. The Hong Kong Derby winner crossed the wire to the sound of a thunderous crowd, pulling away from the pacesetter and a battle between Cirrus Des Aigles and Military Attack for third.
The Cup was Whyte's second international race win of the day; he was also aboard Glorious Days in the Mile. After the dust had settled, Hong Kong runners had ended up winning three of four of the big December races, with Lord Kanaloa flying the Japanese flag in the Sprint.
Hong Kong took on the world on their home turf, and they came out victorious.