Hong Kong Cup: Military Attack to lead the local charge
Singapore Cup winner tops the ratings, the first time a Hong Kong-trained horse has done so since Viva Pataca in the 2008 Cup
A local horse has the honour of heading the invitations for Hong Kong's richest race for the first time in five years, with Military Attack's brilliant win in Singapore in May earning him the place atop the ratings for the HK$22 million Group One Longines Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) next month.
Not since Viva Pataca shared top billing with Eagle Mountain in 2008 has a local invitee been the highest-rated selection, although eventual winner California Memory did go to post as the top rater last year when French-trained Cirrus Des Aigles was withdrawn with injury two days prior.
Cirrus Des Aigles has headed the nominations for the past two years and, while his European form is arguably down from its peak, the rising eight-year-old star is scheduled to make his fifth consecutive trip to Sha Tin as the second-highest rated invitee.
He ran a cracking race without luck at Sha Tin in the Vase as a three-year-old and while his best has otherwise not been seen in his subsequent visits to Hong Kong, he comes off a last-start second to Farhh in the Champions Stakes at Ascot which was not too far off his very best form.
The Dale Romans-trained Little Mike will fly the flag for the United States, looking to become the first Hong Kong International winner from there since Val's Prince in the 1997 Cup and only the second ever. Little Mike is a four-time Group One winner and 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf hero who took the Joe Hirsch Classic over 2,400m at Belmont in September, before flopping in the Breeders' Cup Turf last time when plenty of use was made of him early.
Andrew Balding has had success at Sha Tin with Phoenix Reach in the 2004 Vase and brings Side Glance, a recent winner of the Mackinnon Stakes during the Melbourne carnival, a path which earned Alcopop a placing last year in this race.
Peter Schiergen, the champion German handler who guided the career of Danedream in recent years, is another who has been to Hong Kong previously but is yet to taste success. He brings Group One winner Neatico, who is in the form of his life at home with four wins from his last five starts, albeit in lesser company.
The Jeremy Noseda-trained Grandeur has yet to win at the top level but was Group One placed at Hollywood Park earlier this campaign and ran creditably in the Arlington Million in the States, finishing just behind Little Mike and Side Glance, before winning a Listed event at home at Goodwood.
But the Japanese entry Tokei Halo is the most interesting foreign invitee. The first HKIR runner for trainer Hisashi Shimizu, Tokei Halo failed his initial Group One test when strongly fancied in the Tenno Sho in Tokyo three weeks ago but had strung together three easy wins prior in Group Two and Three company. Tokei Halo is unbeaten in his last four appearances racing right-handed, as he will be at Sha Tin.
The home town defence team bristles with quality behind Military Attack, even in the injury-enforced absence of the defending champion California Memory.
Richard Gibson's Akeed Mofeed has struck form at the right time after his second in the Jockey Club Cup on Sunday and is looking to become the first Derby winner since Vengeance Of Rain to parlay his classic success into an international day trophy.
Gibson is doubled handed in the race with Mizani coming in as the lowest-rated of the 13 invitees, and the numbers are dominated by his four-year-old age group.
Derby runner-up Endowing, fourth-placed Rainbow Chic and Blazing Speed, who missed the Derby but has developed into a high class performer this season, also represent the 2013 classic crop.