Soldier Rising To Skip Longines Hong Kong Vase

Soldier Rising | Sarah Andrew

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Soldier Rising (GB) (Frankel {GB}), who was set to become the first American-based participant since 2017 at the Longines Hong Kong International Races in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase a week from Sunday, will instead remain stateside and receive a break before returning to action in 2024.

“We worked him on Sunday [5f in 1:03.45 over the Belmont main track] and I was not satisfied with the work,” trainer Christophe Clement said of the 5-year-old gelding, campaigned by Madaket Stable, Michael Dubb, Morris Bailey, Wonder Stables and Michael J. Caruso. “He came back and I don't think he is as good as he could be–not bad, but when you go for such a long trip and such a prestigious race, you want to make sure everything is OK. I wasn't comfortable about it, so we'll give him a break and bring him back next year.”

The hard-knocking bay gelding, who has raced competitively with the likes of globetrotting multiple Grade I/Group 1 winners such as champion Yibir (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) and State of Rest (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}) since arriving on these shores in 2021, made six trips to the post this season. Though winless, he ran with credit, with four runner-up efforts in Grade I company, and most recently charged home to miss by a neck in the GII Red Smith S. at Aqueduct Nov. 11.

It has been 30 years since Clement ran his first horse in Hong Kong when Adam Smith (GB) (Sadler's Wells) finished eighth in the race then called the Hong Kong International Cup. Since then, he has started another half-dozen horses, the last coming with Winchester in the 2010 Vase. Pure Sensation was set to represent the stable in the 2016 Sprint and did make the trip over, but was withdrawn in the days leading up to the race.

With few options at home for Soldier Rising at this late juncture, Clement once again looked to Hong Kong.

“Soldier Rising ran a really nice race in the Red Smith and I thought he was doing well, so you just look at your choices,” he said. “The Vase has a big purse of $2 million and we are sure that he stays. So it was attractive at the time to think about it and think a little bit outside the box. But I am a New York trainer, the owners are New York-based and obviously he finished second five times in graded stakes this year, including four times in Grade Is. So that is the priority for next year. For now we'll play it safe and bring him back for the same sort of a program.”

While there are potential early-season targets in the Middle East for a horse like Soldier Rising, the timing isn't quite right, Clement said.

“He could have been one for Saudi or Dubai. I am certainly not against it, but the problem with that is that my idea was to try to go once more [in 2023] and then give him a break and have a fresh horse for next year,” he offered. “Now we are passing Hong Kong and still going to give him a break, which means we also need to pass Saudi and Dubai, as it comes too early.”

Still, it will come as no surprise if Clement circles Sha Tin on his calendar come next December.

“Maybe Big Invasion (Declaration of War) for the Sprint, too,” he said. “Good horses from America compete well in the Breeders' Cup and there's no reason they can't also do so overseas. International competition is good for all of us.”

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