Apologies if you are a big Jumps fan but I am all about this meeting for the weekend baring, of course, the bet at 5-2 on Goshen in the Unibet International Hurdle – see post on Tuesday.
It is a huge meeting this weekend in the old colony with the Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Sunday 13th December. There is a few quid on offer over the four big Group One races: The LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (HK$28 million), LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (HK$25 million), LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (HK$22 million) and LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (HK$20 million) are worth a combined HK$95 million.
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 6.00am our time (little later than last year) but still there will be no lay-in at Triple G Towers this weekend. 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 a British winter, and hopefully this year I have a few winners up my sleeve. As a few of the Bookies went NRNB (eventually) my punts for Sunday are on; the build-up has been dominated by a few short-ones, the old satchel swingers not taking any chances.
The first of the Group One races is the 1m4f Longines Hong Kong Vase. I have been saying for most of the season Mogul will be better next year as he grows and strengthens but he has a chance. Aidan O’Brien said this week “He wants an even pace. He can quicken off even pace but in America it was only a dawdle. It was a mess really” referring to his fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last time. That’s the fly in the ointment with this field, there is no obvious leader and the pace may be slower than you might expect in a Sha Tin race. Third in this last year (I tipped him!) and Hong Kong Horse of the year Exultant has headed the market in the build-up and the six-year-old will have home advantage. The couple of 2’s next to his name aren’t perhaps as bad as they look as he was giving weight to Hong Kong Cup entrant Furore on both occasions. 8-11 is plenty short enough but Zac Purton rides, full of confidence you'd hope off the back of his HK$800,000 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship win earlier this week, and stall five should allow them to get a nice slot just behind whoever leads early. Aimed at this he looks to be peaking at the perfect time and can regain his crown.
The 6f Group One Longines Hong Kong Sprint is due off at 6.40. Classique Legend has been winning races in Australia, won the Everest last time, and has changed trainer from Les Bridge to Caspar Fownes. He loves a strong pace to follow before coming late and fast, see the Everest victory, and the race should be run to suit. That said, he may need some luck in running out of stall one as if he drops too far back to get cover in the short run to the first, he could get boxed in and even if gets out will have to come very wide late. The pressure is on jockey Vincent C Y Ho, riding him for the first time, as if he gets it wrong at the start the jolly will be vulnerable. Trainer Caspar Fownes said after the draw “I was really hoping for gate five, to tell you the truth, all the way before the draw started, he’s a horse that needs a bit of room. Anyway, it is what it is. Most people won’t complain about draw one. He’ll be ridden to get his chance and we’ll see what happens. He won’t be hassled out of the gates early, he’ll probably be back in midfield. Just going to hope that the legendary Hong Kong pace is on, like it always is, and then it’s up to Vincent to ride his race.” Hot King Prawn was just beaten in this last season and warmed-up nicely winning the G.2 Jockey Club Sprint. Consistent type who is usually near the pointed end from the off, he is yet to win at the top level but could finally get that monkey off his back in this. Championship-leading jockey and the main man in these parts Joao 'Magic' Moreira rides as he has done recently and that is a big positive. I have the 3-1 taking on the hotpot.
At 7.50am we have the Group One Longines Hong Kong Mile. Another short one here in the build-up with Golden Sixty odds-on with an impressive number of consecutive wins to his name. He has actually only tasted defeat once in his career winning the likes of the G2 Sha Tin Trophy and G2 Jockey Club Mile in the run-up to this meeting. I have the 4-5 as he looks the best of the day! Dual Hong Kong Mile winner Beauty Generation is available at double figure odds which tells you by just how much Golden Sixty has ruled the division in this neck of the woods. Surprise Breeders Cup Mile winner, surprised me as I was on Circus Maximus, Order Of Australia surely can’t do it again, can he? I think not as he got the luck in running and I am convinced Ryan Moore left the second with little chance having got boxed in; had it been a mile and half-a-furlong the fast-finishing Circus Maximus would have signed off his career with a victory.
You have just enough time to make a bacon sandwich and a cup of coffee as the lucky last is due off at 8.30am here in the UK and it is the Group One 1m2f Longines Hong Kong Cup. Magical is due to make her last appearance on a racetrack (we’ve been here before) and the ultra-consistent mare will be popular with many. Time Warp, winner in 2017, is likely to be the one determining the pace the of the race and the Ballydoyle team will no doubt be hoping for a fair pace for their mare. Last year’s victor in a tight finish Win Bright is back from Japan to defend his crown but this looks a better race this year. Danon Premium has taken over at the top of the market in recent days though I can only assume off the back of solid Japanese support. A good horse I am not convinced he can win this. On paper 2019 BMW Hong Kong Derby hero Furore has a bit to find on the mare but has been warming-up nicely winning two Pattern races recently the G.3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse and G.2 Jockey Club Cup, beating Exultant on both runs; that form may or may not have been franked earlier. This is his track and trip and with that man Magic in the saddle is the one for me in the last of the group One races. I have 3-1. Talking on the Hong Kong Jockey Club website today I was pleased to see Magic quoted as saying “I think his chances are great - he did surprise me how he won last time and if he brings this form he’s going to be one of the horses to beat,”