Kingdom remains a key player
Fading champion Sacred Kingdom heads into Sunday's Group One Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup at Sha Tin in search of a record 18th win, but remains Hong Kong's second-ranked racehorse in international classifications despite winning once in the past year.
Sacred Kingdom needs one more victory to eclipse Silent Witness' 17 victories and will be attempting to win his third consecutive Centenary Sprint Cup this weekend.
But he put in a career-worst performance in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint last start as further evidence that he isn't the horse he was, and trainer Ricky Yiu Poon-fai said last week 'we are taking him one run at a time at this stage'.
'The horse is fine but he has been such a great horse, the owner wants to make sure he gets a nice retirement when it becomes clear that it's time,' Yiu said last week.
The International Classifications committee released the world rankings for the year 2011 on Tuesday, with 122-rated Ambitious Dragon Hong Kong's highest-classified galloper ahead of Sacred Kingdom (121) in what was largely a disappointing outcome for Hong Kong racing.
While the classifications featured more Sha Tin-trained horses than ever before, with 21 making the 360-strong list, Ambitious Dragon failed to make it into the top 20 and the previously influential Hong Kong Mile and Sprint were rated as only average events.
After 122 ratings for the past two Sprint winners, Sacred Kingdom and J J The Jet Plane, Lucky Nine's victory in December was given only a 118 figure.
Able One's Mile win gave him a 119 rating, slightly superior to Beauty Flash 12 months earlier but a far cry from Good Ba Ba's 124 rating in 2008 and 122 in 2009 in taking the race.
California Memory was Hong Kong's third-rated runner, with his Hong Kong Cup earning a 120 rating - the same rating given to Snow Fairy 12 months early, but inferior to the figure for 2008 winner Eagle Mount (122) or Vision D'Etat's 123 in 2009.
Unbeaten horses topped the lists, with British three-year-old Frankel listed at an international rating of 136 and Australian sprinting mare Black Caviar on 132.