Locals, internationals begin path to December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races
With just over two months until December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin, connections in Hong Kong and around the world are beginning to plot a path towards the global year-end showpiece.
A total of HK$84.5 million is up for grabs at the “Turf World Championships” on Sunday, 10 December, across four races – the HK$25 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the HK$23 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), the HK$18.5 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the HK$18 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
Local preps kickstart road to HKIR
Last Sunday (1 October), Sha Tin staged Hong Kong’s first two Group races this season. The G3 National Day Cup Handicap (1000m) and G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) are traditional starting points for horses headed towards the December internationals.
That looks the case again this year, even after John Moore-trained pair Dashing Fellow and Beauty Generation caused upsets.
The National Day Cup featured most of Hong Kong’s primary LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint contenders, with the exception of G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) winner Lucky Bubbles and Hong Kong’s joint top-rated galloper Thewizardofoz, who will both resume in the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) on 22 October.
Dashing Fellow took the prize at long odds, the 1400m handicap specialist adding a new string to his bow, but it was the run of stablemate Not Listenin’tome in second that caught the eye. He finished off nicely under 130 pounds and looks to have returned in good order.
Equal top-rated Mr Stunning (sixth) and even 2015 Hong Kong Sprint winner Peniaphobia (ninth) showed enough to suggest that they are on track for this year’s Sprint, both weakening after on-pace runs and looking as though they will improve for the effort.
Hong Kong Derby third Beauty Generation took the Celebration Cup. The Australian import revelled under a light weight, was suited by give in the ground and was the beneficiary of a terrific Derek Leung front-running ride, and, despite those apparent favours, has now put himself into the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile picture, according to Moore.
Seasons Bloom is also headed that way after his runner-up finish, while third-placed Time Warp and fourth Winner’s Way will attempt to qualify in the coming weeks.
Last year’s Hong Kong Mile winner Beauty Only impressed when he rattled home for fifth under 133lb, especially as the ground was not ideal. He looks right on song to defend his title. Another eye-catcher making late ground was sixth-placed Eagle Way, a leading local hope for the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.
Beauty Generation has put himself into the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile picture after leading all the way to win the G3 Celebration Cup earlier this month, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Tuesday trials spotlight potential local candidates
Some of Hong Kong’s top HKIR contenders geared up for their returns with barrier trials at Sha Tin on Tuesday (3 October), with mixed results.
Last year’s Hong Kong Mile place-getters Helene Paragon and Joyful Trinity both stepped out for the first time this season. Like last term, Helene Paragon appeared in need of fitness, while Joyful Trinity looks to have come to hand fairly quickly. Both will resume in the G2 Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m) on 22 October.
Also set to resume in that same race is 2015/16 Horse of the Year Werther. He was forced to miss last year’s showpiece due to injury, but picked up two G1 wins later in the season. He strode out well in an easy hit-out on Tuesday and looks on track for the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.
Hong Kong’s other main Hong Kong Cup chance, Pakistan Star, repeated old antics when he pulled himself up at the 1400m in his mile trial. The talented gelding will have to complete two 1800m gallops and then two 1600m barrier trials on the turf, without unsatisfactory incident, before he will be allowed to race again.
Let’s Go Donki takes aim at HKIR
Red Falx took out the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakayama in Japan on Sunday. The last eight winners of the Sprinters Stakes have raced at Sha Tin two months later, including Red Falx last year – the grey finished 12th behind Aerovelocity in the Hong Kong Sprint.
A Red Falx return to Hong Kong is unlikely though. Instead, Sprinters Stakes form will more likely be represented via runner-up Let’s Go Donki, a Classic-winning mare at a mile who has proven best suited to sprint trips, placing second in both of Japan’s G1 majors at 1200m this season.
Hong Kong representative Blizzard ran to form in fifth, beaten a length and a quarter. He is likely to aim towards the Hong Kong Sprint as well.
Cloth a Cup possible after Arc second
Trainer John Gosden’s Enable added the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) to her stellar record this season on Sunday, and while she will not be seen in Hong Kong, runner-up Cloth Of Stars remains a chance of lining up in December.
Godolphin-owned Cloth Of Stars won the G1 Prix Ganay (2100m) in May and could be a Hong Kong Cup prospect.
Elsewhere over the two-day meeting at Chantilly, trainer Corine Barande-Barbe said she was hopeful of travelling Garlingari to Hong Kong once more after his victory in the G2 Prix Dollar (2000m). Garlingari finished seventh to Satono Crown in last year’s Hong Kong Vase.
Hong Kong may also be on the agenda for G2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein (1600m) winner Taareef, with trainer Jean-Claude Rouget flagging the Mile as a possibility.