Foreign invaders bring quality to HK$14 million Queen Elizabeth II Cup
Dominant forces from Dubai meeting set to square up again at Hong Kong showpiece
Hong Kong's best will meet worthy opponents from three continents in the HK$14 million Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin on April 27 as the dominant jurisdictions from the Dubai World Cup meeting face off again.
The QE II Cup is light on visiting horses with only five announced on Wednesday, but the race is strong on quality.
When the dust settled on Dubai's desert showpiece last month, Japan and Hong Kong had claimed two Group Ones apiece, with South African Variety Club successful in the Group Two Godolphin Mile and they are the three racing centres which dominate the QE II field.
The defending QE II Cup champion, Military Attack, Hong Kong Cup winner Akeed Mofeed, Vase winner Dominant and this year's Derby winner and third placegetter, Designs On Rome and Dibayani, will head the hometown defence.
The QE II Cup has been almost shared equally by locals and visitors since the turn of the century.
Mike de Kock-trained South Africans Vercingetorix and Sanshaawes are among the invited visitors, along with Japan's Epiphaneia and Uncoiled, while evergreen French star Cirrus des Aigles makes his sixth visit to Hong Kong.
Perhaps the most interesting of the invitees is Epiphaneia, runner-up in last year's Japanese Two Thousand Guineas and Derby, and trained by Katsuhiko Sumii.
Sumii has an impressive record whenever he turns up with runners for international Group One events, including the outstanding 2012 QE II Cup winner Rulership.
Epiphaneia's 2013 form after the Derby included wins in the Group Two Kobe Shimbun Hai (2,400m) and the Group One Kikuka Sho, the Japanese St Leger (3,000m).
At his only start this year, Epiphaneia started odds-on favourite in a Group Two at Hanshin last weekend but could finish only third to the horse who had conquered him in the Derby as well, Kizuna.
Uncoiled doesn't have quite the same profile but was fourth to Just A Way in the Group One Tenno-Sho in October and was beaten by only two lengths by Gentildonna in the most recent Japan Cup.
Vercingetorix won the Group One Jebel Hatta during the Meydan carnival before he tasted defeat for the first time in his career when runner-up in the Dubai Duty Free behind stunning Japanese winner Just A Way.
Sanshaawes finished seventh to African Story in the World Cup, two places behind Akeed Mofeed and three ahead of Military Attack.
Eight-year-old Cirrus des Aigles, once the world's top-ranked racehorse, finished a close-up third to Akeed Mofeed in the Hong Kong Cup in December and at his most recent appearance was runner-up to Japanese champion Gentildonna in the Dubai Sheema Classic.