For Second Straight Year, Longines HKIR Prove Odds-Defying Show

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Normcore gave Japan its fifth winner in two years at the Hong Kong International Races meeting | HKJC photo

by Alan Carasso

Hong Kong was in the throes of massive social unrest at the time of the 2019 Longines Hong Kong International Races, protests had taken place at the Chinese University of Hong Kong literally steps away from Sha Tin Racecourse, and the city bore the scars of the same. The tension was palpable, yet the Hong Kong Jockey Club staged a successful renewal of the races, so successful, in fact, that record turnover of HK$1.71 billion was realised.

Only weeks after, Hong Kong was enveloped in the global pandemic, a situation that demanded decisive action, given its proximity within hundreds of kilometres of the reported centre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. The BMW Hong Derby meeting, the FWD Champions Day meeting, the regular Wednesday evening gatherings at Happy Valley–none of them was canceled, albeit they took place with attendance that sometimes did not reach four figures. But the show went on, as did Sunday's renewal of the HKIR, with no patrons on hand, but with a trio of overseas-based winners, whose connections jumped through all the pandemic-related hoops to take part in what the HKJC proudly calls the 'Turf World Championships.'

“It is important to have these global events. We are very proud that as a team, we pulled this off,” said Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the chief executive officer of the HKJC. “You can have all the processes but, in the end, are you able to pull this off? And people say, 'If there's one organisation in Hong Kong to pull this off, that's the Jockey Club. And we hope that this gives an example of how maybe other sports can do this.”

A year after Japanese runners took down three of the four events, Normcore (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}) and Danon Smash (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) scored upsets in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup and G1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint, respectively, while Mogul (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) gave his sire, Ballydoyle and trainer Aidan O'Brien a third victory in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase. And Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro) completed his ascent to the top of the local ranks with a stirring success in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Mile.

Sunday's meeting was unlikely to produce the same financials seen last year, as the day's turnover of HK$1.462 billion was down by HK$250 million (14.6%). No racecourse cross-betting was permitted and all off-course betting branches in Hong Kong remain closed due to the pandemic. But there was little to suggest Club officials were the slightest bit disappointed.

“Last year we had HK$331 million cash bet in off-track betting centres, today we had [HK$2 million], so naturally you cannot compensate,” Engelbrecht-Bresges told South China Morning Post. “In the overall picture, that's not the focus of the day and if you are still able to operate in such a challenging situation at around 87-90% of your revenue, I think it's again a wonderful example that investing heavily in technology has helped us keep the revenue at this level.

“If you look at the event today, it went to absolute perfection,” Engelbrecht-Bresges continued. “We have clear guiding principles and with daily assessment, practically from the start of the year, we have managed this crisis and created a Racing Bubble. Everybody bought into this and I want to give credit to the whole team for pulling this off.”

Normcore Gives Purton Nifty Nine Internationals…

On some levels, it's been a frustrating season for Zac Purton, who has been fighting an uphill battle with Joao Moreira while in search of a fourth straight jockeys' premiership. Purton, who thought he'd secured the ride on Normcore (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}) only to have connections opt for Christophe Soumillon, produced the 5-year-old mare down the centre of the course to best defending champion Win Bright (Jpn) (Stay Gold {Jpn}) and become the first female winner of the race since Snow Fairy (Ire) (Intikhab) in 2010. Magical (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) battled on for third. Purton's ninth HKIR victory broke a tie with Gerald Mosse to become the all-time winning jockey on Hong Kong's biggest day.

“It's something I'm very proud of, it's a great achievement,” said Purton, who also took home a cheque for HK$500,000 at Wednesday's Longines International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley. “To also now be the only jockey to win the full set of international races twice is also for myself somewhat rewarding. Hopefully, I can just can continue to have luck at this meeting going forward.”

With rides like the one he put on Normcore, that will no doubt be happening. Purton settled the gray mare behind midfield covering Magical as 2017 Cup upsetter Time Warp (GB) (Archipenko) led from Japan's third Cup hope Danon Premium (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}). Purton slipped his mount just a bit of rein while tracking Win Bright around the turn, switched her to the outside, struck the front four off the inside with less than 100 metres to race and edged clear. Japan have won the Cup four times since 2015.

“She [Normcore] had to fight for it,” Purton, who regained the mount when Soumillon failed to clear quarantine Thursday, said of the 2019 G1 Victoria Mile winner. “Win Bright gave a really sharp kick and his love for Sha Tin was starting to show through. But she was determined and inch by inch, she just kept putting herself in the frame.”

Of third-placed Magical, Ryan Moore said: “There was a lack of pace so therefore I couldn't go where I wanted to go. She ran well.”

Pedigree Notes:

Normcore is one of five Group 1 winners for her sire, towering winner of the 2010 G1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S., whose daughter Deirdre (Jpn) will be covered by Galileo (Ire) in her first year at stud, it was revealed Sunday. Normcore, whose dual Group 1-winning half-sister Chrono Genesis (Jpn) (Bago {Fr}) is possible for the G1 Arima Kinen, has a 2-year-old half-brother by 2016 Hong Kong Cup winner Maurice (Jpn) that fetched ¥52 million ($479,440) from Kaneko Makoto as a yearling at last year's JRHA Select Sale and a weanling half-sister by the leading Japanese first-crop sire.

 

WATCH: Normcore too strong in the Cup

 

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
LONGINES HONG KONG CUP-G1, HK$28,000,000 (£2,719,596/€2,982,832/A$4,816,012/US$3,612,093), Sha Tin, 12-13, 3yo/up, 2000mT, 2:00.50, gd.
1–NORMCORE (JPN), 122, m, 5, by Harbinger (GB)
1st Dam: Chronologist (Jpn), by Kurofune
2nd Dam: In This Unison (Jpn), by Sunday Silence
3rd Dam: Rustic Belle, by Mr. Prospector
(¥22,000,000 Ylg '16 JRHAJUL). O-Seiichi Iketani; B-Northern Racing; T-Kiyoshi Hagiwara; J-Zac Purton; HK$15,960,000. Lifetime Record: G1SW-Jpn, 17-7-1-3, HK$43,466,640. *1/2 to Chrono Genesis (Jpn) (Bago {Fr}), MG1SW-Jpn, $5,245,766. Werk Nick Rating: F. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Win Bright (Jpn), 126, h, 6, Stay Gold (Jpn)–Summer Eternity (Jpn), by Admire Cozzene (Jpn). O-Win Co. Ltd; B-Cosmo View Farm; T-Yoshihiro Hatekeyama; J-Masami Matsuoka; HK$6,160,000.
3–Magical (Ire), 122, m, 5, Galileo (Ire)–Halfway to Heaven (Ire), by Pivotal (GB). O-Derrick Smith, Mrs John Magnier & Michael Tabor; B-Orpendale, Chelston & Wynatt; T-Aidan O'Brien; J-Ryan Moore; HK$2,800,000.
Margins: 3/4, NO, 1 1/4. Odds: 9-1, 9-1, 19-10.
Also Ran: Danon Premium (Jpn), Furore (NZ), Dances With Dragon (NZ), Skalleti (Fr), Time Warp (GB). Click for the HKJC.com chart, PPs and sectional timing. Click for the free Equineline.com catalog-style pedigree.

Golden Sixty Assumes the Crown…

To the extent that a horse sporting a record of 13 wins from 14 starts had something to prove, consider it mission accomplished for Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro), who made light work of a good field to assume the mantle of Hong Kong's pin-up horse with a slashing victory in Sunday's G1 Longines Hong Kong Mile. The honest Southern Legend (Aus) (Not A Single Doubt {Aus}) was home just ahead of defending champ Admire Mars (Jpn) (Daiwa Major {Jpn}) in second.

“I was worried about the horses from Japan and Ireland but now, after this race, he has shown me that he's a champion,” said trainer Frances Lui, winning his first HKIR race at his seventh attempt.

Homegrown rider Vincent Ho is the only jockey to sit on Golden Sixty's back and dropped last year's champion 4-year-old and Classic series sweep out to the latter third of the field as Ka Ying Star (GB) (Cityscape {GB}) showed the way from Admire Mars, who had little choice but to roll forward from gate 10. The opening 800 metres was up in a moderate :47.94, but Ho was keeping his powder dry back in the field before allowing Golden Sixty to improve three furlongs down. Knowing the response he gets when he hits the accelerator, Ho got Golden Sixty into the clear, hit the front with his irresistible burst at the furlong grounds and whooshed clear 'in full beast mode' in the words of commentator Mark McNamara. His final 400 metres was clocked in :22.05, last 800 in :44.55 and, going back to the six-furlong mark, a freakish 1:06.99.

“I just let him slide through from the 600 [metres] and it only took him a few strides to almost get to them,” said Ho. “I tried to save him until I let him down and when I asked for him, he did it really well, he gave me a really big effort.”

When asked about any possible overseas targets for Golden Sixty, Lui said: “Not this season. Because of the virus, we'll keep him in Hong Kong this season.”

The world will just have to wait.

Pedigree Notes:

Bred on the exact same cross as American Grade I winners Elate and New Money Honey and the cross over Forty Niner responsible for dual champion Songbird, Golden Sixty is the 26th worldwide top-level winner for Medaglia d'Oro. Golden Sixty has an unraced 3-year-old half-brother named Rainbow Connection (Aus) (Choisir {Aus}) and a yearling half-sister to Capitalist (Aus) that is consigned as lot 336 to next month's Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale. Having missed to Medaglia d'Oro's son Astern (Aus) in 2017 and to Trapeze Artist (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}) in 2020, Gaudeamus was bred to Vancouver (Aus) on a late October cover. Read more on Golden Sixty's pedigree and upbringing here.

 

WATCH: Golden Sixty zooms clear in the Mile

 

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
LONGINES HONG KONG MILE-G1, HK$25,000,000 (£2,426,394/€2,662,282/A$4,299,260/US$3,225,227), Sha Tin, 12-13, 3yo/up, 1600mT, 1:33.45, gd.
1–GOLDEN SIXTY (AUS), 126, g, 5, by Medaglia d'Oro
1st Dam: Gaudeamus (GSW-Ire, $179,846), by Distorted Humor
2nd Dam: Leo's Lucky Lady, by Seattle Slew
3rd Dam: Konafa, by Damascus
1ST GROUP 1 WIN. (A$120,000 Ylg '17 MMGCYS; NZ$300,000 2yo '17 NZBRTR). O-Stanley Chan Ka Leung; B-Asco International Pty Ltd (Qld); T-Francis Lui; J-Vincent Ho; HK$14,250,000. Lifetime Record: Ch. 4yo-HK, 15-14-0-0, HK$52,845,600. *1/2 to Igitur (Aus) (Helmet {Aus}), SP-Aus. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Southern Legend (Aus), 126, g, 8, Not A Single Doubt (Aus)–Donna's Appeal (Aus), by Carnegie (Ire). (A$280,000 Ylg '13 INGEAS). O-Boniface Ho Ka Kui; B-Corumbene Stud (NSW); T-Caspar Fownes; J-Karis Teetan; HK$5,500,000.
3–Admire Mars (Jpn), 126, c, 4, Daiwa Major (Jpn)-Via Medici (Ire), by Medicean (GB). (¥52,000,000 Ylg '17 JRHAJUL). O-Junko Kondo; B-Northern Farm; T-Yasou Tomomichi; J-Ryan Moore; HK$2,500,000.
Margins: 2, NK, NK. Odds: 3-10, 30-1, 22-5.
Also Ran: Waikuku (Ire), Beauty Generation (NZ), Order of Australia (GB), Mighty Giant (NZ), Ka Ying Star (GB), Simply Brilliant (GB), Romanised (Ire). Click for the HKJC.com chart, PPs and sectional timing. Click for the free Equineline.com catalog-style pedigree.

Like Father, Like Son…

Here is a fact, plain and simple. Horses that elect to ship in to take on Hong Kong's best in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint generally fail. Only four horses have managed the feat since 1999–Falvelon (Aus) (2000, 2001); J J the Jet Plane (SAf) (Jet Master {SAf}); and the best of the lot, Lord Kanaloa (Jpn) (2012, 2013). Danon Smash (Jpn), eighth, but not beaten far after a slow start in last year's race, gave Japan its first winner on Sunday's HKIR program, overcoming a wide gate and tricky trip to cause a 21-1 boilover.

Drawn next to the river at the 1200-metre start, Danon Smash was rousted along by Ryan Moore to gain some sort of early position and landed midfield, three deep with cover on the back of Computer Patch (Aus) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}), as Big Time Baby (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}) led at triple-digit odds. Wide, but with Computer Patch still playing windshield, Danon Smash peeled out into the clear off the second corner, raced on his incorrect lead into the final furlong and kicked home strongly once switching legs to be along in time. Nine-year-old Jolly Banner (Aus) (Lonhro {Aus}) and 7-year-old Rattan (NZ) (Savabeel {Aus}) rounded out the minors, while market leaders Classique Legend (Aus) (Not A Single Doubt {Aus}) and Hot King Prawn (Aus) (Denman {Aus}) failed to land a blow.

“I think when he got the draw we were all possibly a bit worried and we needed to see what happens and thankfully everything worked his way and we just had a bit of luck and everything worked out nicely,” said Moore, who was bagging a seventh HKIR, best of any international rider, and has now won each of the races at least once. “He stepped very well and we managed to slot into a lovely spot, I was always happy and when the pace steadied around the bend, I was able to just move out and keep moving forward and he got there in plenty of time,” Moore added.

A multiple group winner at home, Danon Smash most recently reprised his role as runner-up in the G1 Sprinters' S., trailing only the country's top sprinter/miler, Gran Alegria (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}).

Pedigree Notes…

It's been another banner season for Lord Kanaloa, whose two-time G1 Japan Cup-winning daughter Almond Eye (Jpn) is a good pick to be named Japanese Horse of the Year for the second time in three seasons. Danon Smash is the fifth Group 1 winner for the 12-year-old stallion and is out of a winning daughter of U.S. Eclipse Award winner Hollywood Wildcat (Kris S.), the dam of GI Breeders' Cup Mile hero War Chant (Danzig), GSW & MGI/1SP Ivan Denisovich (Ire) (Danehill), SW & GSP Ministers Wild Cat (Deputy Minister) and SW/GSP Double Cat (Storm Cat). Danon Smash's 2-year-old full-sister Flying Barrel (Jpn) was a maiden winner at third asking at Kyoto Oct. 18 and Spinning Wildcat is the dam of a yearling full-sister to Danon Smash and a weanling full-brother.

 

WATCH: Danon Smash gets Japan on the board

 

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
LONGINES HONG KONG SPRINT-G1, HK$22,000,000 (£2,135,036/€2,341,961/A$3,783,349/US$2,838,187), Sha Tin, 12-13, 3yo/up, 1200mT, 1:08.45, gd.
1–DANON SMASH (JPN), 126, h, 5, by Lord Kanaloa (Jpn)
1st Dam: Spinning Wildcat, by Hard Spun
2nd Dam: Hollywood Wildcat, by Kris S.
3rd Dam: Miss Wildcatter, by Mr. Prospector
1ST GROUP 1 WIN. O-Danox Co Ltd; B-K I Farm; T-Takayuki Yasuda; J-Ryan Moore; HK$12,540,000. Lifetime Record: MGSW & MG1SP-Jpn, 22-10-3-1, HK$44,645,990. Werk Nick Rating: C. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Jolly Banner (Aus), 126, g, 9, Lonhro (Aus)–Valkyrie Diva (Aus), by Jade Robbery. (A$300,000 Ylg '13 INGEAS). O-Mr & Mrs Kenny Cheng Tsin Ki; B-Makybe Racing & Breeding (Vic); T-Ricky Yiu; J-Mickael Barzalona; HK$4,840,000.
3–Rattan (NZ), 126, g, 7, Savabeel (Aus)–Grand Princess (Aus), by Last Tycoon (Ire). (NZ$150,000 Ylg '15 NZBJAN). O-Wong Ting Bor; B-M H S & S H R Davidson & Mrs M P Schick; T-Richard Gibson; J-Chad Schofield; HK$2,200,000.
Margins: HF, NK, NO. Odds: 21-1, 83-1, 22-1.
Also Ran: Wishful Thinker (Aus), Fat Turtle (Aus), Computer Patch (Aus), Hot King Prawn (Aus), Voyage Warrior (Aus), Amazing Star (NZ), Stronger (Aus), Classique Legend (Aus), Big Party (Aus), Tower of London (Jpn), Big Time Baby (Ire).
Click for the HKJC.com chart, PPs and sectional timing. Click for the free Equineline.com catalog-style pedigree.

A Third Vase For Ballydoyle…

While he may have been fractionally disappointing last time when only fifth in the GI Breeders' Cup Turf, Mogul (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) was anything but in Sunday's G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase, as he raced right past pacesetting favourite and 2018 champ Exultant (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) in the final 300 metres en route to a convincing victory. Columbus County (NZ) (Redwood {GB}), perhaps Hong Kong's stayer of the future, ran on to finish a non-threatening third. It was a third win in the Vase since 2015 for Team Ballydoyle, whose globetrotting Highland Reel (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) sandwiched victories in 2015 and 2017 around a runner-up effort in 2016.

Looking to improve on his third in defence of his title last year, Exultant jumped straight into the bridle for Zac Purton, but when Chefano (SAf) (Silvano {Ger}) did not roll forward, the rising 7-year-old was committed to a front-running try. More effective when given something to chase, Exultant did not go overly hard, but at the same time, did not settle into a rhythm and pulled against Purton. Mogul, second last and outside of Columbus County early, inched up into midfield traveling comfortably and was ready to strike turning for home. Exultant turned them in, but Mogul was doing much the better work, confronted the favorite and pulled away to win with a fair bit of authority.

“Today, the race worked out nicely for him, he's beaten a really solid yardstick in Exultant,” Moore said of the G1 Grand Prix de Paris hero. “He [Exultant] always seems to consistently perform to the same level and never seems to run a bad race around here. He's put them away very nicely.”

Pedigree Notes:

At 3.4 million gns, Mogul was the second-priciest purchase out of the 2018 Tattersalls October Sale, no real surprise given the racetrack success of his full-siblings Japan (GB), Sir Isaac Newton (GB) and Secret Gesture (Ire). As if his first dam weren't enough to recommend him, Mogul's champion second dam was responsible for G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hero Sagamix (Fr) (Linamix {Fr}), fellow champion and G1SW Sagacity (Fr) (Highest Honor {Fr}) and GSW Sage Et Jolie (Linamix {Fr}), the dam of G1SW and French highweight Sageburg (Ire) (Johannesburg).M V Magnier bought Mogul's yearling full-sister for a sales-topping 3.4 million gns this year at Tattersalls.

 

WATCH: Mogul mows down Exultant in the Vase

 

Sunday, Sha Tin, Hong Kong
LONGINES HONG KONG VASE-G1, HK$20,000,000 (£1,941,120/€2,129,056/A$3,438,840/US$2,580,090), Sha Tin, 12-13, 3yo/up, 2400mT, 2:27.21, gd.
1–MOGUL (GB), 121, c, 3, by Galileo (Ire)
1st Dam: Shastye (Ire) (SP-Eng), by Danehill
2nd Dam: Saganeca, by Sagace (Fr)
3rd Dam: Haglette, by Hagley
(3,400,000gns Ylg '18 TATOCT). O-Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith & Mrs John Magnier; B-Newsells Park Stud; T-Aidan O'Brien; J-Ryan Moore; HK$11,400,000. Lifetime Record: G1SW-Fr, GSW-Eng & Ire, 11-5-1-1, HK$15,723,660. *Full to Secret Gesture (Ire), GSW & MG1SP-Eng, G1SP-Ger & Fr, GISP-US, $746,427; Maurus (GB) (Medicean {GB}), MSW & MGSP-Aus, $510,297; Sir Isaac Newton (GB), GSW-Ire, SW-Eng, GSP-Aus, $405,120; Japan (GB), Hwt. 3yo-Eng & Ire at 9.5f-11f & 11-14f, Hwt. 3yo-Eur at 9.5-11f, G1SW-Eng & Fr, $2,039,233. Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Exultant (Ire), 126, g, 6, Teofilo (Ire)–Contrary (Ire), by Mark of Esteem (Ire). O-Eddie Wong Ming Chak & Wong Leung Sau Hing; B-Ballygallon Stud; T-Tony Cruz; J-Zac Purton; HK$4,400,000.
3–Columbus County (NZ), 126, g, 5, Redwood (GB)–Spirit of Sandford (NZ), by Kilimanjaro (GB). (NZ$33,000 Ylg '17 NZBFEB). O-Mr & Mrs Hamen Fan Shi Hoo, Alex Fan Chen Yen & Christina Fan Chen Mun; B-D W Mayers & Mrs S J Taylor; T-Caspar Fownes; J-Joao Moreira; HK$2,000,000.
Margins: 3, HF, 2HF. Odds: 8-5, 7-10, 13-2.
Also Ran: Ho Ho Khan (NZ), Playa del Puente (Ire), Chefano (SAf), Royal Julius (GB). Click for the HKJC.com chart, PPs and sectional timing. Click for the free Equineline.com catalog-style pedigree.

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