The road to the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races continues

With the close of the free entry period for December’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on Monday, the year-end global racing showcase is now one step closer.

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).

Entries for all four races will be announced on Wednesday (25 October), with selected runners unveiled on 22 November.

Locals continue to build towards December’s features

Old faces returned to action and new names emerged as HKIR contenders after a stellar Sunday (22 October) of racing in Hong Kong, with two Group 2 features headlining the card at Sha Tin.

The G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m) went to John Size-trained Mr Stunning, now Hong Kong’s highest-rated galloper after his strong half-length victory under 133 pounds. He defeated last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint runner-up, G1 winner Lucky Bubbles, with the winner’s stablemate Amazing Kids holding third.

All three gallopers look on track for the Sprint, with their final lead-up set to come in the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) on 19 November.

In the G2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (1600m), John Moore’s Beauty Generation continued to stamp himself as a potential LONGINES Hong Kong Mile candidate with a head victory over his stable companion Booming Delight. He had caused something of a shock when winning the G3 Celebration Cup Handicap (1400m) fresh, but he proved it was no fluke by adding the Sha Tin Trophy.

G1 winners Werther (sixth), Helene Paragon (seventh) and Beauty Only (ninth) did enough under big weights to suggest that they will be competitive come December, while last year’s Mile third Joyful Trinity (11th) and Cup runner-up Secret Weapon (13th) will take improvement from the run. The bulk of Sha Tin Trophy runners will head to either the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile or G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) next. Both races are on 19 November.

On the undercard, Gold Mount stamped himself as a potential LONGINES Hong Kong Vase horse with an impressive Class 2 victory over 1800m, defeating HKIR entrants Doyeni, Dinozzo and Prawn Baba. The English import, who won the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot last year when named Primitivo, was G3-placed in the Queen Mother Memorial Cup Handicap over 2400m in April and looks to have returned in top order.

The next key HKIR prep comes with the G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Handicap (1800m) on 5 November.

Mr Stunning and Nash Rawiller, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

European HKIR hopes emerge on Champions Day

Champions Day may represent the official end of the flat season in Britain, but it can also be a springboard to international riches.

G1 Champions Sprint Stakes (1200m) winners Slade Power (2013) and Gordon Lord Byron (2014) have made the trip to Sha Tin for the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint in recent years, and in 2017, Librisa Breeze may attempt to follow in their footsteps. The Dean Ivory-trained galloper has had a solid season, with Ivory suggesting Hong Kong was on the radar after his one and a quarter length victory.

Runner-up Tasleet could be in the mix, as well as 2016 Champions Sprint Stakes winner The Tin Man, who finished fifth last Saturday (21 October).

G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (1600m) runner-up Ribchester has the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile as a possibility, according to trainer Richard Fahey, with the multiple G1 winner likely to have one more run to end what has been a breakout season.

The other likely runner to emerge from Champions Day is G1 Champion Stakes (2000m) placegetter Highland Reel. First-up for almost three months, the 2015 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase winner ran with credit on ground softer than ideal to finish third to Cracksman.

Aidan O’Brien’s globetrotter seems likely to follow the same path as last year, heading to Del Mar for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (2400m) before possibly returning for a third trip to Hong Kong.

Japan preparing for HKIR raid

Last Sunday’s (22 October) final Classic saw Katsuhiko Sumii-trained Kiseki take the G1 Kikuka Sho (3000m) in very wet conditions at Kyoto, two lengths clear of Hiroshi Miyamoto’s Clincher.

Both three-year-olds could potentially make the trip across to Hong Kong, with each holding an entry for the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase. Connections will determine their plans for the rest of the season in the coming days.

A week earlier, four-year-old filly Crocosmia scored her first stakes win in the G2 Fuchu Himba Stakes (1800m) at Tokyo, defeating G1 winners Vivlos, Admire Lead and Queens Ring.

First, third and fourth could all be seen at Sha Tin in December, but possibly across different races with Crocosmia, Admire Lead and Queens Ring all in the mix. Queens Ring finished ninth after drawing wide in the 2016 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.

This weekend sees the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) over 2000m, which could reveal a raft of potential HKIR contenders. G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) winner Neorealism is set to run on Sunday (29 October) ahead of a possible return to Hong Kong, while other Tenno Sho runners in the mix for HKIR include 2016 G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) victor Real Steel, G1 Yasuda Kinen (1800m) winner Satono Aladdin and three-time Hong Kong visitor Staphanos.