International stars are among the 55 world class selections for the HK$84.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, 10 December, 2017.
Global horseracing’s year-end finale has 32 overseas challengers and is set to feature 24 Group 1 winners, including recent Breeders’ Cup victor Talismanic, Japanese heavyweights Kiseki and Neorealism, Europe’s all-time highest money earner Highland Reel, and local hero Werther.
The LONGINES HKIR comprises the HK$25 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the HK$23 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), the HK$18.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the HK$18 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
Japan has enjoyed notable successes in recent times, thanks to the outstanding Maurice, A Shin Hikari and Satono Crown, and this time Hong Kong’s east Asian neighbour has eight raiders with LONGINES HKIR engagements; Ireland also has eight and Great Britain nine, France has six, and the USA has one. The overseas challengers are primed to face a 23-strong home defence at this year’s Turf World Championships.
LONGINES Hong Kong Cup
Werther, a three-time G1 winner, is Hong Kong’s standout 10-furlong campaigner of the past two seasons and is slated to make his first appearance in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup, the only 2000m major at Sha Tin that he has not won. John Moore’s charge is set for a rematch with the Noriyuki Hori-trained Neorealism, the Japanese star that took his G1 QEII Cup (2000m) title last April.
Two-time HKIR winner Sir Michael Stoute will look to Poet’s Word, runner-up in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes (2000m) and G1 Champion Stakes (2000m) at Ascot at his last two starts. Also among the Cup selections are G1 winners Blond Me and Robin Of Navan from Britain, and Ireland’s Deauville. G3 winner War Decree is also set to represent Ireland. Corine Barande-Barbe, of Cirrus Des Aigles fame, looks to return with the in-form French galloper Garlingari, while Japan also has last year’s Cup third Staphanos and LONGINES Hong Kong Vase fifth Smart Layer among the 13 selected runners.
Werther’s fellow local hopes include last year’s runner-up Secret Weapon, and the emerging talents, the previously British-trained Time Warp, and former South African-trained G1-placed Nassa.
LONGINES Hong Kong Vase
Highland Reel gave the Aidan O’Brien stable its first Hong Kong win when successful in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase two years ago. The multiple G1-winning globetrotter returns after setting up an epic edition last year, in which he finished a brave second to Japan’s Satono Crown.
The top-class five-year-old faces a recent foe in Talismanic. Andre Fabre’s Godolphin charge had Highland Reel in third when successful in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (2400m) at Del Mar recently. Fabre is seeking a third Vase win after Borgia (1999) and Flintshire (2014). O’Brien is also represented by multiple G1-placed Idaho this time.
Japanese runners have claimed the Vase with Stay Gold (2001) and Satono Crown (2016), and Kiseki is a strong candidate to enhance that record this time. The Katsuhiko Sumii-trained galloper is one of his nation’s star three-year-olds and was impressive when winning the G1 Japanese St Leger (3000m) last time.
The Willie Mullins-trained Max Dynamite is slated to take his place among the 14 selected runners after making the frame in the G1 Melbourne Cup for the second time. Fellow Irish-trained selection Eziyra followed up her third-place behind super filly Enable in the G1 Irish Oaks (2400m) with a brace of G3 wins. G1 winner Eagle Way is set to lead the Hong Kong challenge for the prestigious silverware, along with the exciting rising star Gold Mount, winner of the King George V Handicap (2400m) at Royal Ascot in 2016.
LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint
Mr Stunning is Hong Kong’s current standout sprinter and warmed up with an impressive win in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint at the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint course and distance. He heads the home defence for the world’s richest G1 sprint alongside last season’s G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) victor, Lucky Bubbles.
A strong overseas contingent is set to make the 14-runner line-up in the HK$18.5 million event. G1 victor Signs Of Blessing posted a big effort from a wide gate last year to finish fifth, while fellow French raider The Right Man won the G1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai (1200m) this year; British challenger The Tin Man’s two G1 wins include this year’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1200m); America is set to be represented by G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (1000m) winner Stormy Liberal; classic winner Let’s Go Donki has placed second in Japan’s two G1 1200m sprints this campaign, while Once In A Moon was a close third in the latter of those, the Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama in October.
Mr Stunning and Nash Rawiller winning at Sha Tin on Sunday, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
LONGINES Hong Kong Mile
The Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Only is slated to defend the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile title he snared last year. The bay will face tough competition from home and abroad in the 14-runner field.
G1 British Champions Sprint (1200m) hero Librisa Breeze will step back up to a mile for his first visit to Sha Tin, while the Ballydoyle stable’s tough and well-travelled G1-place-getter Lancaster Bomber is ready to hit the Mile alongside his triple G1-winning stablemate, the talented filly Roly Poly. G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) winner Satono Aladdin is on track for the race, as are the European G1 place-getters Karar and Lightning Spear.
Among the locals, last year’s arguably unlucky runner-up Helene Paragon, a two-time G1 winner since, will attempt recompense. Contentment held Beauty Only’s late charge to win the G1 Champions Mile in May, while Seasons Bloom won the G2 Jockey Club Mile last time out to emerge as the leading young gun on Hong Kong’s mile scene.
Mr. Anthony Kelly, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing Business and Operations, said: “The Hong Kong International Races is world horseracing’s year-end showcase and we are delighted that this year’s selected runners for the four Group 1 races are up to the high standard of excellence we have come to expect. It is great to see such strong contenders from Europe, Asia and North America heading to Hong Kong.
“Last year’s occasion was about as good as it gets: Maurice, Beauty Only, Aerovelocity and Satono Crown each were brilliant winners of exciting races, but Hong Kong never rests on its laurels. The depth of quality in the four races this year means that we can look forward with certainty to another great day of sport on the second Sunday in December.”
Anthony Kelly, Executive Director, Racing Business and Operations of the HKJC (right) and Kevin Rollenhagen, Managing Director of The Swatch Group (Hong Kong) Limited kick off the selections announcement ceremony, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
LONGINES Hong Kong Cup
DEAUVILLE – IRE
G1 Belmont Derby (2000m) winner in 2016; multiple G1 placings in 2017, including the Arlington Million over 2000m in August.
NEOREALISM – JPN
Course and distance winner in April’s G1 QEII Cup; two-time G2 victor in Japan.
POET’S WORD – GB
Four-time winner; runner-up finishes in G1 Irish Champion Stakes (2000m) and G1 Champion Stakes (2000m) at last two starts.
WERTHER – HK
2015/16 Hong Kong Horse of the Year; won four from five over Sha Tin 2000m, including Hong Kong Derby, QEII Cup and G2 Jockey Club Cup last start.
STAPHANOS – JPN
Returns for fourth course and distance run, having placed in the 2015 QEII Cup and this race last year.
SECRET WEAPON – HK
Course and distance winner in the G2 Jockey Club Cup in 2016; career peak when second to Maurice in this race last year.
ROBIN OF NAVAN – GB
G1-winning juvenile in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in 2015; won G3 La Coupe (2000m) in June.
GARLINGARI – FR
Two G2 wins over the Chantilly 2000m, including the Prix Dollar at his latest start.
TIME WARP – HK
Listed winner in France and three-time winner in Hong Kong; finished a neck second in the G2 Jockey Club Cup over the course and distance latest.
NASSA – HK
South African G1 place-getter; scored first Hong Kong win in G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse (1800m) and third in G2 Jockey Club Cup so far this term.
WAR DECREE – IRE
G2-winning juvenile; fifth in G1 Prix du Jockey Club and scored first win as a three-year-old in the G3 Diamond Stakes (2100m) two back.
BLOND ME – GB
Six-time winner in three different countries; victorious in the G1 E P Taylor Stakes (2000m) at her most recent start.
SMART LAYER – JPN
Nine career victories from 1400m to 2400m, including the G2 Kyoto Daishoten (2400m) two starts ago.
LONGINES Hong Kong Mile
BEAUTY ONLY – HK
Won this race last year among six course and distance victories that also include the G2 Jockey Club Mile and the Hong Kong Classic Mile.
HELENE PARAGON – HK
Two-time G1 winner, taking the Stewards’ Cup at the course and distance and Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup at 1400m last term; runner-up in this race last year.
LIBRISA BREEZE – GB
Won G1 British Champions Sprint (1200m) at Ascot latest; placed at 1400m in the G2 Hungerford Stakes (1400m) the time before and mile winner in lesser grade.
CONTENTMENT – HK
G1 Champions Mile winner at Sha Tin in May; fourth to Beauty Only in this race last year.
SATONO ALADDIN – JPN
First G1 score in Yasuda Kinen (1600m) in June; multiple G2 wins at 1400m and a running-on seventh in this race last year.
JOYFUL TRINITY - HK
Third in last year’s Hong Kong Mile and followed that with placed efforts in the G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m).
LIGHTNING SPEAR – GB
Multiple G1 placings at a mile, including thirds in the Sussex Stakes this year, and in 2016 the Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (1600m).
SEASONS BLOOM – HK
Five-time winner scored a first stakes win in the G2 Jockey Club Mile latest; two from three this season.
HORSE OF FORTUNE – HK
Six-time victor in Hong Kong; pair of G3 victories over 1800m last season in the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse and Premier Plate.
KARAR – FR
Placed in past two editions of G1 Prix de la Foret (1400m) at Chantilly; took G3 Prix du Pin (1400m) in September.
BEAUTY GENERATION – HK
Third in both the Hong Kong Classic Mile and Hong Kong Derby last season; added the G3 Celebration Cup and G2 Sha Tin Trophy to start his term.
SICHUAN DAR – HK
Australian import with three wins to his name in Hong Kong; fast-finishing fifth in G2 Jockey Club Mile latest.
LANCASTER BOMBER – IRE
Five-time G1 runner-up, four over 1600m, including the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile (1600m) last start.
ROLY POLY – IRE
Three-time G1 winner in fillies and mares contests over a mile this season, taking the Falmouth Stakes, the Prix Rothschild and the Sun Chariot Stakes.
LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint
MR STUNNING – HK
Nine-time winner in Hong Kong; three G2 victories over Sha Tin 1200m, including the Jockey Club Sprint latest.
LUCKY BUBBLES – HK
G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) winner in May; second in both this race and the Chairman’s Sprint Prize in 2016.
PENIAPHOBIA – HK
Four course and distance wins; took this race in 2015 and placed in the race in both 2014 (second) and 2016 (third).
THEWIZARDOFOZ – HK
Wide-margin G3 Premier Cup Handicap (1400m) win under top-weight in June; 3rd in G2 Sprint Cup (1200m) in April.
AMAZING KIDS – HK
Swept both of Hong Kong’s 1000m G3 features last season; fourth in this race last year and second in G2 Jockey Club Sprint at course and distance latest.
NOT LISTENIN’TOME – HK
Australian import has won five starts, including the G2 Jockey Club Sprint over this course and distance in 2016; third in this race in 2015.
SIGNS OF BLESSING – FR
Scored at the highest level in the 2016 G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest (1300m) and big run to fifth from a wide draw in this race last year.
THE TIN MAN – GB
Two-time G1 winner over the Ascot 1200m, taking the 2016 British Champions Sprint and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes earlier this year.
THE RIGHT MAN – FR
First G1 victory in the Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) on Dubai World Cup night; G3 Prix de Seine-et-Oise (1200m) winner latest.
BLIZZARD – HK
Eight-time Hong Kong winner; won the G3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup (1400m) in January and fifth in G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) in Japan latest.
D B PIN – HK
Hong Kong’s Most Improved Horse last season; closed well for third in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) latest.
STORMY LIBERAL – USA
Led home a Rockingham Ranch one-two in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (1000m) last start, his first G1 victory.
LET’S GO DONKI – JPN
G1 Japanese 1,000 Guineas (1600m) winner in 2015; finished second in both the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) and the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) this year.
ONCE IN A MOON – JPN
Listed winner two starts back; finished third in the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) last start.
LONGINES Hong Kong Vase
HIGHLAND REEL – IRE
Counts a win in this race in 2015 among six G1 victories worldwide; narrow second to Satono Crown last year.
TALISMANIC – FR
Classy French galloper who fulfilled promise with win in G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (2400m) last time.
IDAHO – IRE
Brother to Highland Reel; G1-placed and two-time G2 winner at a mile and a half, including the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.
TIBERIAN – FR
Six-time winner, including the G2 Grand Prix de Deauville (2500m) in August.
CHEMICAL CHARGE – GB
G3 September Stakes (2400m) winner at Kempton earlier this year and third to Idaho in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes.
DANEHILL KODIAC – GB
Scored breakthrough Group success in the G3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes (2400m) in October.
EAGLE WAY – HK
Won the G1 Queensland Derby (2400m) pre-import; G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup winner and G1 Champions & Chater Cup third at the course and distance.
MAX DYNAMITE – IRE
2015 G2 Lonsdale Cup (3300m) winner and two-time G1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) place-getter.
TOSEN BASIL – JPN
Five-time winner; second in the G2 Kyoto Daishoten (2400m) last start.
GOLD MOUNT – HK
2016 King George V Handicap (2400m) winner at Royal Ascot; strong closer to be beaten two lengths in G2 Jockey Club Cup (2000m) latest.
HELENE CHARISMA – HK
2016 G1 Grand Prix de Paris (2400m) winner; 2nd in G3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup and 4th in G1 Champions & Chater Cup at course and distance.
SMART CALL – GB
Three-time G1 winner in South Africa, including the G1 J&B Met (2000m) in 2016.
KISEKI – JPN
Top-class three-year-old posted strong win in the G1 Kikuka Sho (3000m), Japan’s St Leger, at his most recent start.
EZIYRA – IRE
Third to star filly Enable in the G1 Irish Oaks (2400m) in July; two G3 wins at a mile and a half at her last two starts.
2017 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races
Selected Runners (as at 22/11/2017)
Idaho at Woodbine in October, picture WEG and Michael Burns Photography