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.
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.”