Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Sunday 12th December

Apologies if you are a big Jumps fan but I am all about the Longines Hong Kong International Races for the weekend. It is a huge meeting in the old colony with a few quid on offer over the four big Group One races: The LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (HK$30 million), LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (HK$26 million), LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (HK$24 million) and LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (HK$20 million) are worth a combined HK$100 million.  

The Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin is one of my favourite meetings of the year, not that I have ever managed to get there, and it isn’t always the luckiest for me, but I do enjoy it. With the prize-money up for grabs it is no surprise many of the big names from around the globe show-up in the old colony. I look forward to it as a little bit of excitement from a faraway land in the middle of the British winter. 

Hong Kong is eight hours ahead of us on the clock so it will be a very early start if you want to watch the races live on Sky Racing as the first of the Group Ones is due off at around 6.00am our time so no lay-in at Triple G Towers this weekend. I am on in the four Group One races nice and early and I am happy to report there are no odds-on shots tipped on Girdys Gee Gees. 

Group One 1m4f Hong Kong Vase  

Pyledriver lines up for this and looks to have a fair chance. He was second on debut this year before winning the Coronation Cup in June but a pulled muscle kept him out of engagements in the summer such as the Juddmonte International Stakes and King George. He returned to action at Lingfield on the Polytrack last month and won the Listed Churchill Stakes. He potentially has a busy winter ahead with tripes to Saudi and Dubai possible after this. I think he has a cracking chance and took the 9-4 on Tuesday. All has gone well with the travel it appears, I have watched a couple of the trackwork videos on the Hong Kong International Races website and he looks relaxed and happy out there. Martin Dwyer told the website on Tuesday “There’s no way he would let me put his bridle on in a morning – and his groom Babu has plenty of bumps and bruises because of him – but that’s just Pyledriver. He knows how much talent he’s got and isn’t afraid to tell you.” so the four-year-old colt appears in great heart. The two main dangers appear to be the last two winners. The Tomohito Ozeki trained Glory Vase is jolly and is trying to take back the prize he took in 2019 but the six-year-old isn’t perhaps as good as he once was. Last year's winner Mogul has looked below par all season and I simply can’t see him winning the race again.

Group One 6f Longines Hong Kong Sprint

A wide-open looking affair here on paper. I tipped Hot King Prawn last year when he was a disappointing seventh and his eighth in the recent G.2 Jockey Club Sprint suggests he aint exactly in form coming in to this. Lucky Patch won that race with Naboo Attack three-quarters of a length back in second and Sky Field a further half back in third. Also in that race were Computer Patch (4th), Courier Wonder (5th), Stronger (6th), Wellington (7th) and Amazing Star (10th). It's dangerous to take the form too literally, especially around Sha Tin, but Lucky Patch has a clear chance off the back of that effort. Three-year-old Japanese raider Pixie Knight won the G.1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama as his warm-up and might prove too quick for his older rivals here. Stall two aint hurt his chances and Yuichi Fukunaga should be able to get his mount into a lovely spot in the run to the first turn in a race where being on the early pace never hurts your chances. He had a 1200 metre workout on Wednesday morning with the work rider telling the HKIR website “He looked around while on the track this morning, but when I asked, he strode out well and ran faster than I had expected. His action was good.” I have watched a couple of his easy workouts from earlier in the week and he looks in great order to my eye. Paddy Power were biggest at 4’s on Wednesday and I took it. 

Group One Longines Hong Kong Mile

The one race on the card where the draw isn’t as significant with a long run to the first bend. Golden Sixty has been long odds-on for this for a while looking to stretch his unbeaten run to sixteen and also set a new all-time winning record of nineteen in Hong Kong. He is at least 5lb higher rated that anything else in the field and few horses have EVER gone round Sha Tin as well as the six-year-old simple as that. Mother Earth gets all the allowances as a three-year-old filly but she has had a long season and looked a little tired in her last two starts, she was well beaten in the G.1 Breeders' Cup Mile last time. Waikuku has seen the rear end of the jolly a few times but is a solid each-way punt having chased home Golden Sixty again last time in the G.2 Jockey Club Mile here three weeks ago. He can be placed anywhere in the race early but is more than capable of going with any early pace so Zac Purton will have options depending on how the race unfolds. The six-year-old has finished second and fourth in this before and looks to have every chance to fill one of the places again this year and if the favourite flops he has as good a chance as any of winning. At 12-1 he is the each-way punt.

Group One 1m2f Longines Hong Kong Cup

Yoshito Yahagi’s mare Loves Only You became the first Japanese winner at the Breeders’ Cup when taking the Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar earlier this month and has been installed as favourite for this. The five-year-old mare is a course and distance winner having won the G.1 QEII Cup in April but stall 12 hasn’t helped her chances. It’s likely to be a decent pace and with the short run to the first bend you can quickly find yourself behind a wall of horses. Dubai Honour has to enter calculations, especially getting the three-year-old allowance, as he has been progressing nicely all year but I wonder if the style of racing will suit round here as he prefers to be covered up. Breaking from stall 8 the gelding could find himself being cut-up on the run to the first by those trying to get across from wider as well and Tom Marquand looks booked for a bumpy ride. Bolshoi Ballet should be suited to the racing style in Hong Kong having been racing in the States all summer and much more used to the early rush to the first bend. Beaten in his last three starts the drop back to ten-furlongs should also help his chances. He was out the stalls like a scalded cat in the Breeders' Cup Turf to get a good early position despite being drawn in stall 15 and only faded out of it in the run-in at Del Mar. The draw could have been kinder here but I was surprised to see 25-1 about on Wednesday and have taken that each-way.  He worked a lap of the main dirt track under work rider with fellow Aidan O’Brien trainees Mogul and Mother Earth on Tuesday looking in fine form in the video I watched. 

Be lucky