Sha Tin Diary

The weather this week in Hong Kong has been a Diary topic so this entry would not be complete without Friday’s report, which is even better than earlier in the week.

There was a drift of nip in the early wind, but once the sun rose above the hills surrounding Sha Tin the temperature lifted for another stunning day for the final stages of preparation for Sunday’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races at the track.

International runners exercised in the pleasant conditions with most content to stretch their legs and in some cases experience the Sha Tin paddock. Poet’s Word did, however, gallop on the Turf working strongly through 800m before the four-year-old Poet’s Voice entire also headed to the paddock under the roof.

Poet’s Word (IRE) is a Sir Michael Stoute special allowed to develop in mind and body before stepping out against serious opposition.

There is hardly more experienced opposition in Europe than Cracksman and Poet’s Word ran second to him, if indeed a long 7L second, in the Group 1 Champion Stakes over 2000m at Ascot on October 21st. The start before, the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes over 2000m at Leopardstown on September 9th, was a closer 1/2L second to Decorated Knight.

Poet’s Word must be considered for the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m). Lightly raced and progressive this trip is a step up again in his development, but Stoute does not travel without cause.

Poet's Word on the Turf course on Friday morning, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club

Which brings up the case for Stoute’s other runner, South African mare Smart Call (SAF) in the Hong Kong Vase (2400m). Quiet word from the inside of the stables is that the mare has thrived since her arrival at Sha Tin a week ago.

The six-year-old Ideal World mare has not won since her 2016 Group 1 The Met win at Kenilworth, but she has not been far away in serious mare’s company. She is fully mature now, muscled and her demeanour this week suggests her approval of the week and her prospects against a very good field in the Vase. Jim Crowley is up.

Final word from Friday goes to the vastly experienced Hideaki Fujiwara who has won no less than 44 graded stakes titles and 12 G1/JPN G1 triumphs in his career.  

He is an international-minded trainer with a history of taking high-class performers to the global stage. The 2010 Japanese Derby and 2012 Tenno Sho Autumn winner Eishin Flash ventured to Dubai and Hong Kong, while his best sprinter-miler, Straight Girl, raced in Hong Kong twice. Successful in the 2015 and 2016 G1 Victoria Mile and the 2015 G1 Sprinters Stakes, and third in the 2014 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, she was covered by Frankel this past spring.

The Diary commented earlier in the week on High Bowman and Joao Moreira working on Fujiwara’s runners Tosen Basil (JPN) and Stephanos (JPN) respectively. The trainer was asked at a media conference on Friday morning for the reason on the engagement of the two leading jockeys, with a polite unstated query on why these two and not others from home.

Fujiwara thought briefly assembling his English for the reply, then grinned, “Because we want to win.” Case closed and general agreement all round.

Note - During the day this Diary correspondent was part of an interview on Hong Kong Radio's RTHK3 , the Morning Brew along with colleague Sean Trivass - go to part four to listen to the chat -