Following hot on the heels of the Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown this Saturday (see separate post) my attention will be on the Far East in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Sha Tin Racecourse will host one of the world of horse racings most celebrated events the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races with HK$93 million in prize money sloshing about. The four big races on the card are the Grade One LONGINES Hong Kong Cup, LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint and LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.
The time difference between here and the old colony is eight hours so there will be no rest for the wicked this weekend. They get underway at six in the morning our time Sunday, the hangover is going to hurt after Sandown. The going is good with the possibility of showers out there on race day.
As it is such a busy weekend, and the satchel swingers have gone NRNB, the bets I've placed are going up nice and early.
6.00am the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase
European-trained runners have won 20 of the 24 editions of the Hong Kong Vase, Highland Reel of course winning for a second time last year. Waldgeist was no match for that wonder filly Enable on his last two starts but should relish conditions at Sha Tin according to trainer Andre Fabre. The colt had been having a good year and was a creditable fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe but followed that up with a below-par effort when fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf last time. "I was a bit disappointed with him in America, where he ran a bit flat and didn't quicken as usual, but now he has recovered really well and he will enjoy Sha Tin racecourse and the fast ground." 4-1 is about and I have that. Local runner Pakistan Star might make him go a bit if in the mood, whilst the best of the British raiders might be Mirage Dancer who is fancied by a few at HQ but is drawn in 13. The turf track at Sha Tin is usually less prone to track bias but 13 of 14 aint ideal.
6.40am the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint
Local speedster Hot King Prawn has been steadily improving for trainer John Size and the 4-year-old grey looks at the top of his game and possibly still improving. The gelding has nine wins from 10 starts to his name and I have a bit of the 9-4 hoping he can ping out and show these a clean pair of heels. The main danger appears to be 2017 winner Mr Stunning but the selection has had the better of the 6-year-old the last twice and there is no reason to think he can reverse the form despite being better off at the weights here by 5lb. Ivictory has seen the backside of the selection the last three times so the same comments apply and Beat The Clock was beaten fair and square off levels. My biggest concern is the draw but Magic Man Moreira should get across and lead.
7.50am the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile
Last years winner Beauty Generation has been jolly in the build-up and at 5-6, as much as I dislike tipping odds-on shots, looks a solid punt to win again. He has shown before he can do it off the front or tracking the leaders so the draw isn’t of as much concern and Zac Purton knows him well. Beat The Bank has been sent over by Andrew Balding but looks up against it here.
8.30am the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup
This is the big one with a total purse of HK$28 million. The Japanese have a couple aimed at this with Sungrazer the jolly anywhere between 6-4 and 5-2 in the build-up and Deirdre second in at 5-2. I think the Mitsuru Hashida trained filly might be the way to go especially with the sex-allowance in her favour. Christophe Lemaire certainly rates this filly his best chance of the meeting saying earlier this week "I'm very confident about her. She won brilliantly last time in Tokyo, her time was very good and she beat Lys Gracieux, who won the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup next time out. She'll be here fresh. She likes to run at the back of the pack but she has a nice strong, long acceleration, so hopefully the pace will be strong enough for her, and in that case she'll be a real contender." Hopefully, Lys Gracieux will have given that form a bit of a boost by running well in the Vase. Time Warp is back to defend his crown but looks unlikely to succeed.