Jet Plane and Rocket Man send field into another orbit
Take Sunday's dead-heat Jockey Club Sprint field, add four extra international invitees and throw in the return of Sprinters Stakes winner Ultra Fantasy, KrisFlyer victor Green Birdie and Al-Quoz Sprint raider Joy And Fun, and this year's Hong Kong Sprint promises to be the greatest sprint field assembled anywhere this year.
Hong Kong's formidable reputation as the sprint capital of the world has not deterred European, South African and Australian-based speedsters from throwing their hat in the ring - with the visitors' hopes no doubt buoyed by Singaporean Rocket Man's brilliant effort to dead-heat with One World last Sunday.
South African J J The Jet Plane, Kingsgate Native from England, Dalghar from France, and flying mare Ortensia from Australia will join Rocket Man in an attempt to wrest the world turf sprint championship away from the Hong Kong-based horses for the first time since Australia's Falvelon won in 2001.
At 120 in the international ratings, J J The Jet Plane is the highest-ranked visitor taking on the might of our 122-rated Sacred Kingdom, who showed vulnerability in his fifth placing at Sha Tin last Sunday, and if the trainer is half as fortunate as his name suggests, then the South African may indeed be the horse to conquer the locals.
Trainer Lucky Houdalakis had planned to bring his powerhouse sprinter for last year's running of the Sprint, but problems with the quarantine process kept him in South Africa until this year's renewal and he will complete a lengthy journey via England. A year on and the six-year-old gelding is ready to mix it with the best once again - after some deliberation between connections - and the South African sprinter has dominated the main sprints in his homeland this year.
Fellow southern hemisphere entrant Ortensia, trained by Tony Noonan at Mornington near Melbourne, will leave a cloud of controversy behind her when she boards her flight next Tuesday.
An appeal by her owners against her disqualification from winning the Group One The Galaxy at Randwick in April, after she presented a positive urine sample to a prohibited substance, was dismissed at a hearing yesterday.
Meanwhile, the mare pleased Noonan in a solid 1,200-metre exhibition gallop between races at Sandown Park, Melbourne, yesterday and she is ready to embark on her first overseas mission.
'I'm not going there to run second,' Noonan said. 'I've always felt this sort of race, high speed off a bend, is what suits her best and I think she can win.'
Kingsgate Native from Michael Stoute's yard and the Aga Khan's Dalghar - trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre - are the two European entrants and bring formlines from the best sprint races on the continent.
Both trainers know what it takes to win international races in Hong Kong, although the Sprint has so far eluded the European entrants and the pair will be keen to show the world that their charges have what it takes to beat the best on home soil.
Notable absentees from the list are Golden Shaheen winner Kinsale King, who has once again succumbed to foot problems, and last year's International Sprint Trial winner Happy Zero, who has failed to come to hand in time to make the cut, after sustaining a lower back injury in the Golden Jubilee at Ascot in June.