Deirdre is an old hand at overseas travel, Lys Gracieux has proven she can ship out and run to form, but a new face from Japan will join them in Sunday’s HK$24 million G1 FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m).
Win Bright, a five-year-old son of Stay Gold, will make his overseas debut at his 18th career start and in doing so he will give his owner Win Racing Club its first opportunity to race outside of Japan.
“It has been very lucky for us to have a horse of such ability who can go to the international stage. But I think all the effort we have put in has brought us this great opportunity to challenge in Hong Kong,” said Yoshihiro Okada, the president of Win Racing Club.”
Win Racing Club was re-organised in 2011 after the former owner sold the club to Cosmo View Farm, the breeding and pre-training farm in Niikappu, Hokkaido, run by Okada’s wife Akiko Okada. The syndication partnership was arranged with Cosmo View Farm horses going into Win Racing Club.
Cosmo View Farm has four branches with more than 300 boxes. Win Malerei gave Win Racing Club a first graded stakes success in the 2014 G3 Radio NIKKEI Sho. That was the same year Win Full Bloom ran a good third in the G1 Satsuki Sho, the Japanese 2,000 Guineas. Last year, Win Tenderness won the 2500m G2 Meguro Kinen.
Win Bright is the operation’s star performer though. The Club offers 400 shares per horse and one share in Win Bright cost approximately US$800 a share.
“We want everybody to enjoy racing as a horse owner, so the club has always had 400 shares,” said Okada.
Win Bright (JPN), picture Hong Kong Jockey Club
Win Bright made his debut with a sixth-place effort in June 2016 and grabbed his first graded race in the 2017 G2 Spring Stakes (1800m). He was unable to make an impact in two legs of the Japanese classics, a pattern that has played out again in G1 contests.
But the grey horse has won five times at G2 and G3 level over 1800m and 2000m, notably the last two editions of the G2 Nakayama Kinen (1800m), the latest of which saw him defeat five G1 winners, including FWD QEII Cup rival Deirdre.
“He moved nicely when he started his pre-training,” Okada recalled. “He was a thin horse but flexible, with good foot-work, so our expectations were always high. He was also easy to handle and very straightforward horse when he was younger too.”
Win Racing Club and trainer Yoshihiro Hatakeyama had in fact hoped to see Win Bright make his overseas debut last December.
“We planned to race in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup last December but his condition at that time was not good enough,” Okada said. “After winning the (G3) Nakayama Kimpai in January, we decided to bring him for this race. The softer track at Sha Tin should be more suitable for him compared to the fast track in Japan.
“Of course, being confident of a good run is one of the reasons why I have come to compete. Hopefully he wins the race and it could be a stepping-stone for our future.”
That future could involve more overseas ventures.
“Possibly in Australia later in the season,” Okada said. “That will be discussed after his run on Sunday, and the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races must be on the agenda too.”
Overall, Okada has elite ambitions for Win Racing Club and Win Bright could be just the start.
“My biggest dreams are to win the Japanese Derby and have success in Grade 1 races on the global stage. Horse racing gives me a lot of dreams and thrills, I really love thoroughbreds. Sharing that happiness and excitement with many racing people and racing fans through this sport is the most important thing in my life,” he said.