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
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
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
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
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
All photos courtesy of HKJC