'Legend' Unluckiest Among Favorites at Longines HKIR Draw

Trainer Caspar Fownes is left with gate one for Classique Legend | HKJC photo


A total of 39 horses representing Hong Kong, Japan, Ireland and France were entered and barriers drawn Thursday morning for Sunday's HK$95 million Longines Hong Kong International Races meeting at Sha Tin Racecourse.

Although Boniface Ho's Classique Legend (Aus) (Not A Single Doubt {Aus}) has yet to win a race at Group 1 level–he is a multiple Group 2 winner in Australia–he is one of the marquee horses of this year's HKIR, having arrived in Hong Kong on the back of a dominating victory in the A$15-million The Everest at Randwick Oct. 17. Having come good in his recent trackwork for trainer Caspar Fownes, he figures to jump favourite for Sunday's G1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint, but his chances were done no favours by pulling gate one as the last horse out of the box at the draw.

“I was really hoping for gate five, to tell you the truth, all the way before the draw started,” Fownes told the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Leo Schlink. “He's a horse that needs a bit of room. Anyway, it is what it is. Most people won't complain about draw one. He'll be ridden to get his chance and we'll see it happens. Just going to hope that the legendary Hong Kong pace is on, like it always is, and then it's up to [jockey] Vincent [Ho] to ride his race.”

Ballydoyle's Magical (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) will also begin from the pole position as she faces seven other rivals-including three from Japan–in the day's richest event, the G1 Longines Hong Kong Cup (2000m). Ryan Moore takes the ride on the bonny mare as she tries to exact revenge on Win Bright (Jpn) (Stay Gold {Jpn), who got just the better of the Moore-piloted Magic Wand (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in last year's Cup. The latter will be having the final start of his career Sunday and carries Masami Matsuoka from barrier four.

Moore and Aidan O'Brien will also team up with Mogul (GB) (Galileo {Ire}), who looms the main danger to reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year Exultant (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}) in the first of the four internationals, the G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m). A barnstorming winner of the G1 Grand Prix de Paris in September, he was a fair fifth behind a modest pace when last seen in the GI Breeders' Cup Turf at Keeneland Nov. 7. He landed gate four. Highland Reel (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) won the Vase in 2015 and 2017 for Ballydoyle. Exultant, winner of this race in 2018 before a tough-trip third in his title defence last December, was beaten on the square by leading Cup chance Furore (NZ) (Pierro {Aus}) at both his previous starts this season, each over trips short of his best and at something less than peak fitness. He begins one stall to the outside of Mogul in five.

It was lucky seven for Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro) in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Mile as he goes in search of a first Group 1 himself and an 11th win on the bounce. To do so, he will have to take down the colors of Japan's Admire Mars (Jpn) (Daiwa Major {Jpn}), who became the rare 3-year-old to win the Mile 12 months ago. Moore takes the ride from Christophe Soumillon, who has been stood down owing to COVID-related issues (see related story) and will have to work out a trip from the widest alley in the field of 10.

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