As standard, Hong Kong holds a powerful hand for its greatest day, the Longines Hong Kong Worldwide Races Dec. 9 at Sha Tin Racecourse.

Three of final yr’s 4 winners represented Hong Kong and all are again to defend their titles—Time Warp within the Longines Hong Kong Cup (G1) at 2,000 meters (about 1 1/Four miles), Mr Gorgeous within the Longines Hong Kong Dash (G1) at 1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs), and Magnificence Era within the Longines Hong Kong Mile (G1).

The worldwide contingent just isn’t devoid of hope, nonetheless. The Japanese raiders, particularly, boast some spectacular credentials. The 4 fields additionally embody runners from France, England, Eire, Australia and Singapore.

Magnificence Era, the reigning Hong Kong Horse of the 12 months, established a brand new observe report of 1:32.64 in his most up-to-date begin, the BOCHK Wealth Administration Jockey Membership Mile and is the “now” horse with native followers. The 6-year-old Street to Rock gelding, educated by John Moore, has 4 straight wins and, offered main native rider Zac Purton can handle his occasional eccentricities, will probably be one of many day’s hottest tickets when he strains up for the Mile.

“He has these little traits,” Moore stated after the Dec. 6 barrier draw, the place Magnificence Era drew gate No. 12 in a 14-horse area. “However he would not take them onto the observe.”

Prone to be coming late within the Mile are two Japan-trained runners. Persian Knight, a 4-year-old Harbinger colt, received the Mile Championship (G1) at Kyoto in 2017 and completed second in that very same race Nov. 18. Mozu Ascot, a 4-year-old son of Frankel, received the Yasuda Kinen (G1) in June however fizzled within the Mile Championship. Vivlos, a 5-year-old mare with worldwide Group 1 expertise, completes the Japanese trio for the race.

One Grasp and Inns of Courtroom, the 1-2 finishers within the Qatar Prix de la Foret (G1) at Lonchamp Oct. 7, additionally will contest the Mile. One Grasp, a 4-year-old Fastnet Rock filly, completed fifth within the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) after the Foret. Inns of Courtroom is a 4-year-old Invincible Spirit colt educated by Andre Fabre in France for Godolphin.

Godolphin’s Lisa-Jane Graffard watched Inns of Courtroom gallop over the all-weather course Dec. 6 and pronounced him “very relaxed and properly in himself and I could not be happier together with his bodily situation. Andre has at all times felt he was able to successful a Group 1 over a mile and he was simply crushed a head-bob within the (2017) Jacques le Marois, so he isn’t far off that class.”

 The Cup, Hong Kong’s richest race at HK$28 million (about US$3.58 million) drew a area of solely 9 — 5 from Hong Kong, three from Japan, and Stormy Antarctic from Ed Walker’s yard in England.

Time Warp has had a massively up-and-down time of it since successful final yr’s Cup with a pair of wins combined in with some last-place showings. In his most up-to-date effort, the 5-year-old Archipenko gelding and his youthful full brother, Wonderful Endlessly, burned themselves out on the entrance finish within the BOCHK Jockey Membership Cup, received by Eagle Means.

“When he is good, he is excellent,” stated Purton, his common rider. “When he would not wish to do it …. (pause) … For him not to have the ability to do it now could be puzzling. I am unable to fairly work it out.”

If it is a down yr for the locals within the Cup, it might be a great one for Japan. Sungrazer, a 4-year-old Deep Influence colt, exits a second-place exhibiting within the Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) Oct. 28. Deirdre, a 4-year-old Harbinger filly, was spectacular final yr in Japan and completed a dead-heat third within the Dubai Turf Sponsored by DP World (G1) in March at Meydan. Staphanos returns after working fourth in final yr’s Hong Kong Cup.

Whereas Mr Gorgeous is the defending champ within the Dash, Scorching King Prawn is the division’s rising star. The 4-year-old Australian import, a Denman gelding, has defeated Mr Gorgeous of their final two races. He’s one in all 4 within the 14-horse area educated by John Measurement, who’s excessive on his probabilities.

“Every little thing’s nice for him,” Measurement stated of Scorching King Prawn, who makes his first Group 1 begin. “It would not shock me if he continues to maneuver up.”

He may need to just do that to deal with Japan’s high sprinter, Wonderful Needle.  The Godolphin runner, a 5-year-old son of Admire Moon, received each of Japan’s grade 1 sprints this season however settled for fourth in his earlier Hong Kong look, the Chairman’s Dash Prize (G1) April 29. That warmth went to Ivictory, who returns for this race after a pair of sub-par performances.

Jockey Yuga Kawada galloped Wonderful Needle over the Sha Tin turf three days previous to the race and warned, “I feel his situation has improved rather a lot since he received the Sprinters Stakes final time. He’s match and prepared.”

Hong Kong horses seldom compete past 1 1/Four miles, leaving the Vase, at 1 half of miles, as probably the most tempting race for foreigners on the HKIR program. This yr is not any exception.

Solely 4 of the 14 runners within the Vase are locals. The remaining come to Hong Kong after contesting such top-level worldwide races because the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf, Maker’s Mark Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, Lexus Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, Ladrokes Cox Plate, Comer Group Worldwide Irish St. Leger and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in Japan.

Lots of these, nonetheless, are on the finish of lengthy campaigns, adopted by arduous journey. For punters searching for a stay lengthy shot, Moore suggests a take a look at the aforementioned Jockey Membership Cup winner Eagle Means.

“I want he was within the 2,000 (the Cup),” Moore stated. “However the house owners have one other horse there. Individuals who need a good wager, I might counsel an each-way wager on him.”

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