Despite Ongoing Pandemic, HKIR Retains Mass Appeal

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Golden Sixty will shoot for his first career Group 1 in the Longines Hong Kong Mile | HKJC photo

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A total of 162 nominations from 10 racing jurisdictions, including no fewer than 61 Group 1/Grade I winners, have been received by the Hong Kong Jockey Club for the HK$95-million Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin Racecourse Dec. 13.

“We are delighted to have such strong nominations for our four Group 1 races in December,” said Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing for the HKJC. “Considering the current climate in regard to the COVID-19 situation, it just reiterates that the Longines Hong Kong International Races are recognised the world over as one of the global sport’s truly great events. This is something that we are extremely proud of and this year we anticipate another phenomenal day of elite sport.”

Japan fields a top-class team year in and year out and the 23-strong challenge could be headed by former Horse of the Year Almond Eye (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}). Withdrawn on the eve of last year’s G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup, the 5-year-old resumes in defence of her crown in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) this weekend, having defeated the Cup-nominated Danon Premium (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) at Tokyo 12 months ago. The globetrotting Addeybb (GB) (Pivotal {GB}) holds an entry for the day’s richest race and has three Group 1s to his name this season, the Ranvet S. and Longines Queen Elizabeth S. on a very successful Australian raid and a latest tally in the G1 QIPCO British Champions S. at Ascot. Aidan O’Brien has entered five for the Cup, including last year’s runner-up Magic Wand (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Magical (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}); third to Addeybb last time and headed to the Breeders’ Cup meeting; G1 Grand Prix de Paris hero Mogul (GB) (Galileo {Ire}); and MGSW Armory (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who exits a second in the G1 W S Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. Lord North (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}), who beat Addeybb in the G1 Prince of Wales’s S. at Royal Ascot, is also engaged.

Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d’Oro) has yet to strike at the top level, but nevertheless looms the favourite for the G1 Longines Hong Kong Mile. Winner of nine straight and 12 of 13 overall, he could square off against defending champion Admire Mars (Jpn) (Daiwa Major {Jpn}), the O’Brien-conditioned G1 Queen Anne S. winner Circus Maximus (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Australia’s Alligator Blood (Aus) (All Too Hard {Aus}), whose top-level success came in the Australian Guineas the the 1600-metre distance. Two-time Mile winner Beauty Generation (NZ) (Road To Rock {Aus}) also represents the home team.

The locals struck their lone blow in last year’s G1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint, a race they have dominated down the years, and Beat the Clock (Aus) (Hinchinbrook {Aus}) and Hot King Prawn (Aus) (Denman {Aus}) could square off again. That duo could be threatened by the very talented Classique Legend (Aus) (Not A Single Doubt {Aus}), exiting a towering victory in The Everest, while four-time G1SW Nature Strip (Aus) (Nicconi {Aus}) is the lone Australian speedster entered. Olekasandra (Aus) (Animal Kingdom), who carried the Team Valor silks to a defeat of the boys in the GI Jaipur Invitational S. in June, and 2019 GII Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint winner Four Wheel Drive (American Pharoah) are the two HKIR entrants from America. Inferno (Aus) (Holy Roman Emperor {Aus}) who cemented his status as the top horse in Singapore in last weekend’s Lion City Cup, has also been entered, as has Glen Shiel (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}), who carried Hollie Doyle to a 16-1 upset of the G1 QIPCO British Champions Sprint Oct. 17.

Reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year Exultant (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) kicks off a Longines Hong Kong Vase preparation in Sunday’s G3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse H. as he looks to add to his victory on HKIR day in 2018. The form of the Oct. 17 G1 Caulfield Cup could be on display in the Vase, as that event’s top two placegetters–Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed {NZ}) and Anthony Van Dyck (Ire) (Galileo {Ire})–could each press on to Sha Tin. In Swoop (Ire) (Adlerflug {Ger}), winner earlier this season of the G1 Deutsches Derby, is a potentially very interesting raider for Francis-Henri Graffard, having run Sottsass (Fr) (Siyouni {Fr}) to a neck in the G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe Oct. 4, while G1 Prix Vermeille and G1 Prix de l’Opera victress Tarnawa (Ire) (Shamardal) could represent the Dermot Weld yard.

Added Harding: “To attract global stars like Almond Eye and Magical, is testament to how appealing Hong Kong racing is in the eyes of the world’s leading horsemen. Hong Kong stages superb sport with excellent prize money and on 13 Dec., Sha Tin will take centre stage with the excitement of four world class championship races.”

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