Hong Kong International Races – And All That Jazz

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ALL VIEWS ARE MY OWN

Don’t tell my family whatever you do, but I am actually looking forward to heading home after over three weeks away covering both the Japan Cup and now the Hong Kong International Races – with a week’s holiday in between.

Naturally, I don’t expect everyone to just rush off and bet on “foreign” racing so I have dug out enough spare time to cover a “trio of treats” from the United Kingdom, though with what I am reading about the weather, its odds against we only get one or two who actually make it as far as race day.

Make no mistake, here in Hong Kong the local horses and the Japanese raiders are a match for the very best we have to offer, but what kind of patriot would I be if I failed to mention the best of our hopes in each race, so after watching early morning trackwork, making notes at the trainer and jockey media calls, and earwigging on as many sage conversations as I could get away with, my conclusions are here for your enjoyment – winners or not – off we go…

Hong Kong Sunday

Longines Hong Kong Vase (6.10am UK time)

The Japanese won this last year with Marilyn, and at the time of writing, they are responsible for four entries here. Shahryar probably had the best form of their quartet with wins in the 2021 Japanese Derby, the Dubai Sheema Classic last year, and a solid third to Auguste Rodin at the Breeders Cup last time out, but he has just been withdrawn by the vets, though Lebensstil has been a bit of tip circling around the press room and is clearly improving all the time, with a comfortable won in the Group Two St. Lite Kinen in his prep race. Warm Heart may be the best of “our” challengers with Aidan O’Brien’s filly getting 4lb or more from all of her rivals, and with a solid neck second to Inspiral at the Breeders Cup last month over a mile and a quarter. Already the winner of Yorkshire Oaks and the Prix Vermeille this season over a mile and a half, she may be better suited by this trip with Aidan saying pretty much exactly that this morning. 

Conclusions – no surprise to suggest this is a tough race but decisions have to be made, and looking at the prices, the value may still be Warm Heart whose form holds up to the closest scrutiny, is ideally suited to this trip, and has Ryan Moore putting in al the effort to do the weight which has to tell you something. Lebensstil looks a huge danger in a race that could go to any of them.

Longines Hong Kong Sprint (6.50am UK time)

I cannot tell you how much I would love to scream John Quinn’s Highfield Princess home in this with HK$14,560,000 to the winner (£1.485 million ish), and make no mistake, that is anything but an impossibility. She has travelled well and John seemed very happy with her condition which can only be a positive, but the raw early speed of the locals may be her undoing. Japanese raider Jasper Krone seems likely to be one of those putting the pace to the race and he certainly caught my eye in his work this morning, making him sorely tempting each-way at odd of 33/1. Wellington won this last season under Ryan Moore and has to be worth a second look, though Ryan rides elsewhere with the frustrating but talented Aesops’s Fables for Aidan O’Brien, and he is yet another to consider for the places. Sprints are notoriously tricky to second-guess with a missed step at the start enough to lose at this level, but Lucky Sweynesse is officially rated the best sprinter in the World – even if that did slip under the radar of your average UK fan. He hasn’t looked at his very best recently with second places in September (giving 20lb to the winner), and again in October (giving a stone to the winner and only going under by a short-head), but he looked more like his old self when winning last time out with a bit more in hand than the official margin of a neck, with jockey Zac Purton reporting him oin good form this week. 

Conclusions – Lucky Sweynesse is the likeliest winner by some margin, but he is anything but bullet-proof and at odds of 11/10 or worse, I can afford to miss out – just. Jasper Krone will need to produce something special to hold on in this company but we know his tactics – point and shoot – which should keep him out of any trouble, and he had such a lovely action when I watched him work that at a huge price, I cannot resist a few pennies each way.  

Longines Hong Kong Mile (8.00am UK time)

Golden Sixty is the sweetheart of the locals and understandably so with a race record of 25 wins from 29 starts, and over £14 million in win and place prize money. He has won returning from a break every time so a “holiday” since April didn’t ought to be any issue even at the age of eight, and he has to be on the shortlist once again here having win this in 2020 and 2021. California Spangle handed him one of those rare defeats in this last year when winning by a neck but he will need to be at his very best to repeat that form, while Beauty Eternal is a horse on the upgrade and is another to at least consider. Cairo intrigues for the O’Brien/Moore combo with his trainer suggesting he will get better with time to grow and strengthen, while Serifos is currently the better fancied of the four Japanese entries. Lim’s Kosciuszko represents Singapore but sadly looks up against it in this field, while Tribalist runs for Andre Fabre and is worthy of a second glance for that reason alone.  

Conclusions – If Golden Sixty is as good as he was at the age of eighth then he really ought to win this, and I will 100% be having a bet on him for that very reason. That said, what do we all make of Cairo? Trained by Aidan O’Brien who I swear had an extra glint to his eye this morning (can he think he can land a clean sweep here I wonder?), do feel free to tell me how many horses trained by someone with his reputation, to be ridden by Ryan Moore, and who was second in a Classic (beaten two lengths by Paddington in the Irish 2000 Guineas) would be priced at 33/1? Aidan suggested this was no afterthought with his Listed third at Leopardstown needed to put him straight and to get him into the final line-up, and I will also be having a small bet each way on him – just in case.    

Longines Hong Kong Cup (8.40am UK time)

Go big or go home, as they say, and by now my fate will be crystal clear to me, my colleagues – and my bank manager. Romantic Warrior won this last year and arrives at the top of his game after heading over to Australia and taking the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, making him a leading player once again in 2023. My Australian friends have done nothing but crab that form since my arrival, but win he did and he looks a massive player here – just ask the bookmakers who have him as 5/4 best priced as I write. Japanese contender Prognosis sits second in the betting after his third to Equinox in the Tenno Sho in October, and with the form franked with the winner storming home in the Japan Cup, he has to have every chance, while Luxembourg races for Europe/Aidan O’Brien and runs over his favoured trip. 

Conclusions – At the prices I am more tempted by Prognosis than I am by Romantic Warrior, and if he can repeat his latest effort, then that may be enough to come home in front. Luxembourg has won six races, four at Group One level, and this is his trip. Somehow a half length second to Auguste Rodin (who was getting 6lb) in the Irish Champion Stakes has slipped under the bookmaker radar, and with the winner and stable-companion going on to take the Breeders’ Cup Turf on his only start since, that form looks rock solid, making the 9/1 look like excellent each way value.   

Conclusions Conclusion:

I would really like to split myself in two. with part of me wondering if Aidan O’Brien could pull off a miracle – and the other remembering just how difficult it has been historically for European challengers. So, I am going to split my betting bank for the day in two and play both camps – one set on

Lebensstil

Lucky Sweynesse

Golden Sixty

Prognosis

All to win

And the other on

Warm Heart

Aesops Fables

Cairo 

Luxembourg

All each way.

Golden Sixty photo with thanks to HKJC

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