Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Sunday 8th December

It is a huge meeting this weekend in the old colony with the Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Sunday 8th 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$20 million) and LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (HK$20 million) are worth a combined HK$93 million. As a few of the Bookies went NRNB nice and early my punts for Sunday are on. 

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 as the first of the Group Ones is due off at 5.40am our time. With the Tingle Creek meeting on Saturday there will be little rest at Triple G Towers this weekend – I feel a Sunday afternoon snooze coming on after I have, hopefully, totted up the winnings.

1m4f LONGINES Hong Kong Vase:

Last year’s winner Exultant is back to defend his crown and he showed he’s wellbeing scoring in the 1m2f G.2 Jockey Club Cup last time. The five-year-old is the middle distance king in these parts and has come a long way, literally, since finishing third in the 2017 Irish 2,000 Guineas when known as Irishcorrespondent. He has been best priced 11-8 this week and I have a bit of that about him retaining his crown as I am not convinced this is as strong a heat as last year which saw subsequent Cox Plate winner Lys Gracieux in second place and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Waldgeist in fifth. Stall 14 hasn’t helped but isn’t a disaster due to his style of running. Trainer Tony Cruz said “I’m not worried about it, I think it’s better for him because I don’t want him to be stuck in traffic going fast and slow, steadying up here and there,” he said. “I prefer him to be out there with clear running.” Anthony Van Dyck is set to become the first Derby winner to contest the Vase and is interesting off the back of a somewhat unlucky third in the G.1 Breeders’ Cup Turf. I am still not convinced he is as good as he appeared to be back in the summer though. Nassau Stakes winner Deirdre finds herself back closer to home having had a European vacation this summer. Second to Glorious Forever in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup last year she reportedly looked very good in her track work on Wednesday morning. She might prove the biggest danger to the jolly.

6f LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint:

Mr Stunning has a habit of peaking for this race having won the last two editions of and will attempt to become the Hong Kong Sprint’s first three-time winner. The Bookies don’t fancy his chances though and Aethero has been a short-price for a while. The three-year-old has been in fine form, lowered Sacred Kingdom’s 1000m Sha Tin track record this season and won the G.2 Jockey Club Sprint here last time with Hot King Prawn two lengths back in second. He looks a solid punt especially with the weight-for-age advantage. I grabbed Evens early doors. Trainer John Moore seems happy enough saying on Thursday “I wanted eight to 10, so it’s not a bad one (drawn 10) He can be a fraction slow to begin with before he gets into that high tempo. It gives a chance to weigh up the options. We hope we’ve got the real deal, and with that three-year-old weight allowance, he should be very close.”

LONGINES Hong Kong Mile:

The worlds highest rated miler Beauty Generation has headed the market in the build-up having made it two wins in a row last year. He blitzed the field in 2018 and, of course, is also the mile track record holder at Sha Tin so he ticks a lot of boxes. The hat-trick doesn’t look a certainty though and he has to bounce back from two recent defeats. If he can find his best form he wins and stall five does give the seven-year-old and Zac Purton the chance to blaze a trail again. My fingers are crossed he can kick clear again like last year as I have the 5-2. Talking in the build-up  trainer John Moore was in an upbeat mood after watching the world’s top-rated miler work on Thursday morning saying “He’s drawn gate five and that gives him the opportunity to gather speed and let Ka Ying Star go to the front. In all probability, he’ll be racing outside the leader. Mission accomplished, with respect to his work. Now we go back to level weights and he’s definitely the one to beat. No doubt Ka Ying Star will go forward and take him on, but we’ve done all that we need to do to get Beauty Generation back to where he was last season." He will have to face his latest conqueror, the improving Waikuku who beat him in the G2 Jockey Club Mile. The four-year-old looked pretty decent that day but stall ten of ten is hardly a bonus.

1m2f LONGINES Hong Kong Cup:

Almond Eye sadly misses the race due to a raised temperature. That has made this a much more competitive affair. Last year’s winner Glorious Forever is back but he hasn’t got near that career peak performance in six starts since and the frontrunner will probably set this up for one of the others. His full-brother and 2017 victor Time Warp is also back but he has been very much out of form. Win Bright won over course and distance in G.1 QEII Cup back in April with Exultant second. That was a bit of a shock and he hasn’t backed it up the last twice. Rise High was on my mind for the Mile at one point but runs here. I think a mile is his best trip and connections might have made a mistake choosing this race. That brings me to the Aidan O’Brien-trained recent G.1 Mackinnon Stakes winner in Australia Magic Wand. She has of course been on her travels for a while now but her trainer reported her in good form earlier this week. It’s hard to knock her after sixteen G.1 starts in six countries for eleven top-four finishes and you know you’ll get a run for your money. This is her ideal trip, stall two doesn’t hurt her chances and she gets the small fillies allowance. Basically, by a process of elimination, she is the pick at 3-1.

Hopefully, it will be a big night for Zac Purton as he rides three of the tips. Ryan Moore can have the lucky last ;o)

Be lucky