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Hong Kong International Races: A Preview

Cirrus des Aigles Hong Kong
 

This year’s lineup for the Longines Hong Kong International Races looks to be as good as ever with several international stars making the trip to try and take a piece of the $72 Million HKD ($9.25 USD) in prize money. Sunday's card is made up of four international group 1 races including the 6 furlong Sprint, the 8 furlong Mile, the 1 ¼ mile Cup, and the 1 ½ mile Vase all contested over the Sha Tin main turf track. The races are some of the richest in Asia, and attract some of the best competition in the world. This year is no different as Hong Kong runners try to defend their home turf in the international spotlight.

 

Hong Kong Sprint: 6 furlongs on turf. $15 Million HKD ($1.93M USD)


This race drew the least amount of international competition, with 8 of the 12 runners stemming from hosting Hong Kong. Lucky Nine (left) looks to be in prime form coming into the race with a win the Jockey Club Sprint as the main prep for this race. Another interesting Hong Kong entry is Time After Time who finished a close second to Lucky Nine in the Jockey Club Sprint and also appears to be coming into top form. This is his first grade 1 stakes, so it will be interesting how he handles the step up in class.

 

Of the international entries fro this race, both Japanese contenders look to present formidable competition to the home team. Curren Chan (right) is looking to vastly improve off of last year's 5th place in this race, and fortunately did not have to deal with extreme travel delays like last year. So far this week, Curren Chan has been working very well over the damp Sha Tin turf, and recently blitzed through a ½ mile work around the dogs. The other Japanese horse, Lord Kanaloa is also appearing to be in good form coming off of a win in the G1 Sprinters Stakes in Japan. The lone Australian is the mare, Sea Siren. She boasts 6 wins in 10 starts, three of which have been at a group 1 level. This race is the 9th of the season for her, but if speed is playing well on Sunday, she very well could close 2012 a winner.

 


Hong Kong Vase: 12 furlongs on turf. $15 Million HKD ($1.93M USD)


Whereas the Sprint is hosting the fewest international entries, the Vase is hosting the most with 10 of the 12 starters invading from abroad. Of the top contenders, Dunaden (left) enters as the defending champion, looking to repeat his win from last year. The Melbourne Cup winner appears to be in good form with a win in October in the Caulfield Cup. Another to take note of is Sea Moon, who showed impressive staying form this summer in England, before some tough races including the Arc. He has not raced since the Arc and should be fresh off the two month break.

 

Joshua Tree is entering this race off a strong front running win in the Canadian International in October. He has been training beautifully in Hong Kong this week, and his presence, comfort, and enjoyment of the Sha Tin turf has caught the eye of just about everyone on the track. His work rider was quoted as saying “As you can see he is full of beans.  He’s almost too well!”

 

Hong Kong is not really known for their depth at the longer distances, given the total of two horses that are going to attempt to take on this onslaught of top class international competition. Of the two, Liberator won at this distance last spring spoiling Ambitious Dragon’s chances for a Hong Kong Triple Crown. He will need to improve off his season starts if he wants to hit the board against this field.

 

 

Hong Kong Mile: 8 Furlongs on turf. $20 Million HKD ($2.57M USD)


This race is one of the most highly anticipated races of the year thus far in Hong Kong. It showcases the reigning back-to-back HK Horse of the Year Ambitious Dragon, (right) against the one of the most formidable rivals he has faced in his career in Glorious Days.  The two have split their preps this year, with Ambitous Dragon powering home to win one mile Sha Tin Trophy, and Glorious Days out finishing the champ in the recent Jockey Club Mile.  This is becoming quite the rivalry, and this race should line up to be a great finish if both horses bring their top game.

 

It’s hard to ignore Xtension, who has always been in the shadow of Ambitious Dragon over of the past 2 seasons. However, he did get his time in the spotlight winning the BMW Champions Mile in Sha Tin last May, edging out the afore mentioned Glorious Days and Ambitious Dragon.

 

Of the international field, Gordon Lord Byron boasts one of the most impressive resumes as far as competition, but lacks the depth of experience as this distance. It will be interesting to see how he can carry his speed over the added distance at this level, but he certainly has the class to hold off the late pace rallies that are inevitably going to come from the Hong Kong natives. Other grade 1 winners including Master of Hounds, (left) Siyouma, Sadamu Patek, and Grand Prix Boss all appear to be in fine form, leading to what is likely going to be the toughest race of the day.

 

 

Hong Kong Cup: 10 furlongs on turf. $22 Million HKD ($2.82M USD)

 

The marquee event of the card is shaping up to deserve its $22 Million HKD purse. Headlined by the classy Cirrus Des Aigles, (right) many others look to snatch a victory from the world’s current top rated horse. Recently finishing second to the mighty Frankel, Cirrus Des Aigles enters Hong Kong looking for his first win in his 4th try. He appears to be a class above this field, but there are some locals that might have something to say about coming in and snatching the most prized race of the year.

 

The defending champion, California Memory, (left) is coming into the race off of an impressive win that saw him ferociously close from 12th to first in the final furlong. He won this race last year from the inside post, which he has drawn again this year. Under a brilliant ride from Matthew Chadwick, California Memory was rushed from the gate to track the leaders rather than his usual spot at the rear of the pack. This edition again shows no true pace setters, and if the fractions are as soft as last year, another forwardly placed position could result in him becoming a back-to-back winner.

 

The rest of the field shows some quality talent, and if they show up with their best runs, they could easily take the crown. Some of these ther notables are Irain, Zaidan, the finely bred Sweet Orange, and Saonois.

 

All photos courtesy of HKJC 

 

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Older Comments about Hong Kong International Races: A Preview...

Lookin forward to the reports! Hope my horses come in and that they are come back to run another day. Here's some great video of Charlton House--he looks splendid! http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/videos/12287/hong-kong---sea-moon-and-carlton-house
Yukichan, unfortunately I was not able to make this trip this year, but I have friends that are there and I will be on the phone with them during the races...Next best thing I suppose. ILTR, Cirrus was out with a mild tendon issue, but the trainer is optimistic about a return next year. Sweet Orange came up a little lame in his front right leg yesterday, so they decided to scratch.
This has shaped up to be such a competitive series with a true international representation, save the US with only Master of Hounds I believe? For the Vase, reports are very complimentary on Joshua Tree's looks and training. I might go out on a limb however with Meandre/Joshua Tree. In the Sprint, Time After Time draws well and as you said, is coming into form and peaking now. For the Mile, I'll be cheering for your Ambitious Dragon, with Siyouma give him a run for the top prize. And for the Cup, I think Charlton House is due for a big one, and seems to be taking to the track. Charlton House, by the way, will relocate to Australia and Gai Waterhouse, and represent the Queen's stable down under after the HKC. Will you be reporting from Sha Tin Matt? So envious if you are!!
I hope that Ambitious Fragon wins, but he has drawn ver wide, and the experts say he can't win from there.
Not sure what the circumstance are that it brought it about, but I just saw on the Hong Kong Jockey Club web-site that both Cirrus Des Aigles and Sweet Orange have both been withdrawn from the 2012 Hong Kong Cup.
Little Mike could leave them breathless.......Little Mike is the best turf horse in the world.
Cirrus sure looks tough this year, but the lack of pace is what beat him last year, and this year does not look to be much faster. Hopefully chasing Frankel didn't take too much out of the gelding. I would love to see him win it!
It is surprising that Cirrus des Aigles has not enjoyed more success as of yet at Sha Tin ... Sunday may be the day.

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