Future stars to make an impression on LONGINES Hong Kong International Races undercard
Historically, the undercard at Sunday’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races has served as a stepping stone to big-name billing at the December showpiece.
While most of the focus is on the four rich features which headline the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, the other six events – the supporting acts – provide some of the most competitive racing of the entire Hong Kong season as trainers and owners chase a win in front of the world.
Not only is it competitive, but each race also provides an opportunity for horses to step forward and mark their credentials as future HKIR contenders.
Since 2006, 41 local horses that have run on the undercard have returned down the line to compete in one of the four international features – 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) or the HK$18 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m). That includes nine of the 23 Hong Kong representatives at this year’s HKIR, including Sprint fancy Mr Stunning and leading local Cup hope Werther.
International day winners to have previously raced on the undercard on their way to the big time include 2016 Mile victor Beauty Only, two-time Sprint winner Aerovelocity (2014 & 2016) and dual Cup winner California Memory (2011 & 2012), 2014 Mile winner Able Friend, 2010 Mile scorer Beauty Flash and 2008 Sprint champion Inspiration.
This year’s undercard is headlined by the third event, the Class 1 Flying Dancer Handicap (1400m), featuring a number of progressive gallopers. Chief amongst them is John Size’s unbeaten charge Nothingilikemore, who tackles Class 1 for the first time after speeding through the grades with five consecutive wins.
“He’s done it five times, so I just hope he can continue what he’s been doing so far!” regular rider Joao Moreira said. “I think John Size had him spot on for the first-up run and he produced such an amazing performance that day. I don’t think he needs to improve much more to be competitive in this race on Sunday.”
That first-up run saw Nothingilikemore shoulder 132 pounds to an effortless Class 2 victory over Sunday’s course and distance, racing clear for a two-length win in late October.
“I think he can go very high, and yes, I think he could be an international horse next year,” the Brazilian rider said. “At the moment he would probably be the favourite for the first two legs of the four-year-old races and maybe even the Derby as well. I don’t know if he will run 2000 metres but I think he has got something special. I am very happy to have the ride and I hope we can continue what we have been doing on him so far.”
The first leg of the Four-Year-Old Classic Series is the Hong Kong Classic Mile on 21 January. It is followed by the Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on 18 February and the BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on 18 March.
Nothingilikemore meets horses like last-start winner Southern Legend, progressive five-year-old Winner’s Way and 1400m specialist Jolly Banner. The veterans are represented by Giant Treasure, second to Maurice in the 2015 Mile, and also Dundonnell, who won this race in 2014.
Nothingilikemore coasts to victory in his seasonal reappearance last start, picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Lockheed to take flight for first time in Hong Kong
Another horse running on the undercard who is aiming for Four-Year-Old Classic Series glory is G1 winner Rivet, who is having his second start in Hong Kong. He is one of five horses headed towards the classics in the last, the Class 2 Maurice Handicap (1600m).
However, a debutant earlier in the programme will be seeking to join them, with this season’s German 2,000 Guineas runner-up Lockheed set to have his first run for Danny Shum in the Class 2 Lord Kanaloa Handicap (1600m).
Previously trained by William Haggas, Lockheed was the top lot at the Goffs London Sale in the lead-up to Royal Ascot in June. He was purchased for £900,000 by new owner Henry Cheng.
Since his arrival in Hong Kong in August, he has had three barrier trials, all with Moreira in the saddle. The reigning champion jockey will maintain the connection on Sunday.
“His preparation has been great,” Moreira said. “Whatever he does on the weekend, he will still improve from because he’s a gross type of a horse. He will need a few runs. He was expensive though because he is a good horse, I like the way he moves and if he goes there and wins first-up, I wouldn’t be surprised because he has natural ability.
“Still, I would suggest we just see how he goes and take it from there. I’m quite excited to see what he does later in the season.”
The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races meeting begins with the Class 3 Fantastic Light Handicap (1800m) at 12.25pm. The first of the international features, the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m), gets underway at 2pm.