Saturday’s (31 March) Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint is one of seven races that the Hong Kong Jockey Club will simulcast from Meydan’s Dubai World Cup card, and the contest could hold clues to the HK$16 million G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) on 29 April at Sha Tin.
Dubai’s standout 1200m straight track turf feature is set to include six runners that have entries for Hong Kong’s premier late season speed test.
Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby has the market leaders amongst his three starters in the race, most notably Blue Point, drawn in 13, and Jungle Cat, drawn 10. Both have Chairman’s Sprint Prize options.
Blue Point, a two-time Group 3 winner last season, was beaten just more than a length in the G1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot behind Caravaggio and Harry Angel, Europe’s champion sprinter from 2017. Following a spell, Blue Point returned to action on 22 February when second, beaten a head, by course specialist Ertijaal over 1000m, having never raced over less than 1200m previously.
“His prep run was good over 1000 (metres) and he is the horse they all have to beat,” said a confident Appleby on Thursday morning.
Jungle Cat, fourth in the Al Quoz in 2016 and 2017, is unbeaten in two starts this season at Meydan. He posted a narrow win ahead of Champions Mile entrant and Dubai Turf runner Janoobi in the G2 Al Fahidi Fort over 1400m before stepping back in trip and dominating the Listed Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint by more than two lengths on Super Saturday.
“If it doesn’t happen with Blue Point, I’m pretty confident that you have Jungle Cat there, the wily veteran, who was my live contender a year ago until the rains came and he lost his going. If there is a kink in Blue Point’s armour, Jungle Cat could be the one,” the handler said.
Appleby prepared Safety Check to a fifth placing in the 2016 Champions Mile, less than four lengths behind the dominant Japanese champion Maurice in his only previous visit to Hong Kong.
“If Blue Point goes and wins how we hope he is going to, given he doesn’t have a lot of mileage on him, I see no reason why we shouldn’t go on to Hong Kong with him. If Jungle Cat runs in the top three here, we could easily have two in the race,” he said.
Librisa Breeze, winner of the G1 British Champions Sprint in October, makes his seasonal reappearance at top level for trainer Dean Ivory and has both Champions Mile and Chairman’s Sprint Prize entries. Plans were in place for Librisa Breeze to tackle the Hong Kong Sprint, but the gelding suffered a small setback in training and was put away for the term.
“This is his first time travelling and it may have taken a little bit out of him,” said Ivory. “You would always love to have an extra day or two, but he’s come on since he has been here. This is a good experiment to see how he might handle a trip to Hong Kong later, either in April or perhaps in December.”
Trainer Charlie Hills sends out Magical Memory, in search of a first Group 1 win for the gelding, who claims a Group 2 win at York in 2016 among his career highlights.
The Hills family have been occasional visitors to Hong Kong’s biggest races in years past. Charlie’s father Barry prepared Redwood for a second in the 2010 Hong Kong Vase among four starters in his career at the year-end flagship meeting.
Seventh a year ago in the Al Quoz, Washington DC is one of several horses trained by Irish legend Aidan O’Brien entered for Champions Day. Washington DC would be O’Brien’s first runner in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize should he earn an invitation, with the master of Ballydoyle having started only two horses at Hong Kong’s spring meeting, both in the AP QEII Cup.
Fellow Irish conditioner Darren Bunyan sends Hit The Bid into the Al Quoz off a distant third in the Meydan Sprint. The colt holds a Chairman’s Sprint Prize entry.