Your roving reporter checks in from Hong Kong ahead of the World Turf Championships this Sunday


There may not be many better things than standing around in Britain watching the racing while huddled up in a waterproof coat, scarf, and hat, but for my sins I have been sent off to Hong Kong for the International races this coming weekend (Sunday 14th December to be precise), and I am trying to make the most of it.

Ryan Moore after winning on Wednesday at Happy Valley – rides Snow Sky who has each way chances (Picture courtesy of Neil Murray)

Although it may appear perfectly normal to those in sunnier climates to be bombarded with accurate information from tracks, trainers, owners, and even jockeys, it would be fair to say we are not so spoilt in the UK and the term “breath of fresh air” certainly springs to mind. Gallop reports with split times, honest assessments of a horses’ chances, even injury updates are thins we have to do without, while I have been arguing for years back home that knowing the weight of a horse is an advantage we could easily introduce? Excuses over, and I ought to at least have a glance at the European prospects of success in the four Group One races, though be warned, trying to compare any form from one continent to another is fraught with danger. A mile and a half awaits them in the Longines Hong Kong Vase due off at 2.00pm local time and perhaps the race where we hold the strongest hand? French challenger Flintshire heads both the betting and the ratings and perhaps deservedly so based on his runners up berth in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, all be it well behind the amazing Treve, but he does seem to like to finish in that position more often than not (five times from just eleven races), which may be enough to make you want to look elsewhere for value? German option Empoli may be seen to better effect on going with a little less sting to it while Red Cadeaux invariably runs well here having won it in 2012 and would be a popular victor, but cannot be getting any better at the age of eight. Parish Hall is interesting for a long odds outsider with trainer Jim Bolger still trying to get the five year old back to his juvenile form, yet I am tempted by Snow Sky as an each way option thanks to listening to others more than the form book. A son of Nayef I don’t see the quicker going as a concern and after a respectable third in the St Leger he arrives here fresh and could at least be the dark horse of the European party at odds around the 8/1 mark in the UK -though I suspect a little bigger elsewhere if you shop around.

Moving on to the sprint at 2.40pm (again local time), and we are relying on the Irish runners to give us any chance of victory. Sole Power is a class act having won at both Royal Ascot (Kings Stand Stakes) and York (Nunthorpe Stakes) this season, though he did look as if the last few strides of this sort of trip (six furlongs) may be beyond him at the highest level when well beaten at Haydock in the Sprint Cup, and he has never won at this trip despite six attempts. Gordon Lord Byron on the other hand, stays further with wins at up to a mile, though he seems to be better on going with a bit of cut in it having never won on anything like as fast as he is likely to face on Sunday. Fact is I think he could get placed at a price (he looked a picture at work on Thursday morning), but overall I would not be surprised to see local domination – though I would love to be proved wrong of course.

Newmarket trainer David Simcock – good luck with the globe trotting Trade Storm.

The Longines Hong Kong Mile at 3.50pm (1600 meters) has two raiders both from England as Roger Charlton sends Captain Cat (will love the ground but could be outclassed here) and David Simcock’s Trade Storm, already a success story after winning the Woodbine Mile in Canada with all it’s riches. He did look in particularly good heart at work the other morning and no one would deny him his place chances but once again, it looks as though we are tilting at windmills and I will be pleasantly surprised if we are anywhere near the money as they flash past the line.

Lastly (well, for this year anyway), we have the Longines Hong Kong Cup at 4.30pm local time, a mile and a quarter event worth a massive £1.1 million million to the winner and not to be sniffed at. French gelding Cirrus Des Aigles knows his way around the track a lot better than I do having finished third in this race last year as well as fifth in 2011, seventh in 2010, and fifth in the Vase in 2009, but if he couldn’t win it at his best why should he be able to win it at the age of eight I wonder? He looks well enough in himself to be fair, and stranger things have happened in this sport but sorry, even the romantic side of me can’t quite see it. Newmarket trainer Roger Varian has an interesting one with Farraaj who has bits and pieces of form that suggest he is in with a chance of a place, and they have reported that they are very happy with his preparation since arriving after his third in the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington, though once again, I am pretty certain we will not be taking home first prize!

In conclusion, I think the locals and Japanese probably have this wrapped up between them with Able Friend their idea of a good thing ahead of the Hong Kong Mile (and priced accordingly), though I will be cheering every European challenger (politely of course), without holding my breath – it’s a long journey here this late in our season and asks a lot of any horse to get anywhere near to the home contingent literally on their own turf.

Sean Trivass is a guest of the Hong Kong Jockey Club and would like to thank them for their support and assistance.


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