Longines HKIR 2023: All Four Favourites Can Be Taken On

From L to R: Ballydoyle's Luxembourg, Cairo, Aesop's Fables and Warm Heart limber up for Sunday's Longines HKIR over the all-weather track | HKJC photo

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Some 44 horses representing England, France, Ireland, Japan, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates in addition to a typically deep group representing the home team will line up for Sunday's Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin Racecourse in the New Territories, with record prizemoney of HK$118 million (£12 million/US$15.1 million) up for grabs across the four events.

There figure to be clear favourites in each of the four races, but each come with his own set of question marks.

 

  • Romantic Warrior (Ire) (Acclamation {GB}) loves the Sha Tin 2000 metres–his local C & D record is nearly unassailable–but having endured a tough race when just winning the G1 Cox Plate at Moonee Valley six weeks ago, how short a price is one willing to accept? He looks to become the first repeat winner of the Cup since California Memory in 2011/2012.

 

  • Three-time Horse of the Year Golden Sixty (Aus) (Medaglia d'Oro) goes for a third Mile in four years, but takes on a serious group of Japanese milers while returning from a 224-day absence.

 

  • Lucky Sweynesse (NZ) (Sweynesse {Aus}) is the best of the local sprinters and had no luck in running last year, but he's been curiously managed this term and has been lacking a killer instinct, albeit with some excuses.

 

  • Four of the last seven runnings of the Vase have gone to Japan, and Carrot Racing's Lebensstil (Jpn) (Real Steel {Jpn}) has been the talking horse this week, but he's never faced a test as strong as this, even on the back of a victory over a ring-rusty G1 Satsuki Sho (2000 Guineas) winner Sol Oriens (Jpn) (Kitasan Black {Jpn}) in the G2 St Lite Kinen last time.

 

So, let's take a contrarian approach to Sunday's meeting and build arguments for others, some well-backed in the markets and others with rougher chances:

Longines Hong Kong Cup

The progressive Japanese duo of Prognosis (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn})–a pace-disadvantaged runner-up to Romantic Warrior in the G1 FWD QE II Cup in April and a latest third to horse of the world Equinox (Jpn) (Kitasan Black {Jpn}) in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn)–and Rousham Park (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}) will have their supporters, as will G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup hero Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), awkward draw and all.

Gousserie Racing's Horizon Dore (Fr) (Dabirsim {Fr}) may be the one they're trying to beat in next year's Cup, but the G2 Prix Dollar Sept. 30 capped a four-race winning streak at home and he was scarcely disgraced when beaten under two lengths by King of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}) in the G1 QIPCO Champion S. Oct. 21, where the ground was unsuitably easy and he was perhaps asked for his effort sooner than optimal by Mickael Barzalona. It'll be quicker underfoot Sunday and, while not necessarily tipping him to win, he's an each-way chance.

Horizon Dore has a puncher's chance in the Cup | HKJC

Longines Hong Kong Mile

Golden Sixty won this race in 2020 and defended his title 12 months later, but couldn't reel in loose leader California Spangle (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) last December. The latter figures to take some pressure up front from Godolphin's Tribalist (GB) (Farhh {GB}), who must go forward from gate 13. A quicker-than-standard pace would certainly suit Golden Sixty, but the riverside draw in 14 is a serious concern. Double-digit barriers have been overcome before by the likes of Ambitious Dragon (NZ) and Maurice (Jpn) and less-accomplished horses like Beauty Only (Ire), so it's obviously not out of the question, and while few would be shocked if he pulled it off, we're inclined to look elsewhere.

The G1 Mile Championship has been used as a Hong Kong Mile lead-up for Hat Trick (Jpn) (2005) and Maurice (Jpn) (2015)–each of whom won the Kyoto feature before doubling up in Hong Kong. Four of the five Japanese raiders for this year's Mile prepped there–including the victorious Namur (Jpn) (Harbinger {GB}) and narrowly beaten Soul Rush (Jpn) (Rulership {Jpn})–but we are opting for Serifos (Jpn) (Daiwa Major {Jpn}).

Spelled following his runner-up effort to Songline (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) in June's G1 Yasuda Kinen, he was first-up in the Mile Championship, sat a three- or four-wide trip ahead of midfield without the benefit of cover, came to win the race 200 metres out and ran out of fitness in eighth. He has an inside draw and could settle further back, then make one late dash for glory as he did when winning the Mile Championship in 2022. Here's hoping the speed is on.

Japan's Serifos races second-up in the Mile | HKJC

Longines Hong Kong Sprint

The presence of Japanese speedball Jasper Krone (Frosted), the locally based Victor the Winner (Aus) (Toronado {Ire}) and Sight Success (Aus) (Magnus {Aus}) and G1 Prix de l'Abbaye heroine Highfield Princess (Fr) (Night of Thunder {Ire}) should insure that the Sprint is run at a sound tempo. Now, that fact is as likely to benefit a horse like Lucky Sweynesse as anyone else, but evens seems difficult to take on a horse that–at least to now–hasn't shown that he is materially better than last year. Wellington (Aus) (All Too Hard {Aus}) was the chief beneficiary last year and is likely to improve in his second run of the season and second start for trainer Jamie Richards and is not without a shot at a more attractive quote.

Cristian Demuro takes the ride on Japan's Mad Cool (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), who exits a runner-up effort–beaten a nose–in the G1 Sprinters S. at Nakayama, the same placing earned by Danon Smash (Jpn) before causing a 21-1 boilover in the 2020 Sprint. If that effort is not an aberration, the Sunday Racing runner has an upset chance of his own in a race lacking a true standout.

Longines Hong Kong Vase

It may well eventuate that Lebensstil backs up the hype and should he do so, I'll tip my cap to him and move along. The Vase lost a bit of its lustre when Shahryar (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) was not declared Thursday, but Sunday Racing will also have the regally bred Geraldina (Jpn) (Maurice {Jpn}), who would be a threat on her very best. With the early scratching of Russian Emperor (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), a victory from any of the remaining locals is highly unlikely.

Three-year-old fillies have performed well when tried in the Vase, as the pint-sized Vallee Enchantee (Ire) (Peintre Celebre) (815 pounds) beat the boys in 2003, while Daryakana (Fr) (Selkirk)–all 941 pounds of her–followed suit in 2009. Warm Heart (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) weighed in at 978 at the time declarations were made Thursday and she will try to give both Aidan O'Brien and her majestic late sire a fourth win in the race. Impressive in winning the G2 Ribblesdale S. at Royal Ascot June 22, she was disappointing in the soft when fifth in the G1 Irish Oaks the following month.

She bounced back with determined victories in the G1 Yorkshire Oaks and G1 Prix Vermeille and she might have added the 10-furlong GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf last time but for an other-worldly finish from Inspiral (GB) (Frankel {GB}). She can sit handy to what figures a modest pace and get first run on those that choose to race farther back. She'll get a nine-pound pull in the weights from the older stayers and Ryan Moore rides at 117 for the first time in quite a while.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club proudly calls the HKIR the 'Turf World Championships' and with the quantity of quality on display Sunday, who's to argue, really?

 

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