There were no real surprises in the invited runners for the HK$14 million Champions Mile and HK$10 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize on May 1 and both will feature cracking fields and may even sort out some “world’s best” arguments.
As expected, Japan’s Longines Hong Kong Mile winner Maurice heads the field for the Champions Mile with an international rating of 121 and the Noriyuki Hori-trained five-year-old will have the services of champion jockey Joao Moreira, while Australia’s Buffering and Chautauqua head the Chairman’s Sprint entries. Both sprinters are touted as “the world’s best” by their fans and connections and will throw down the gauntlet at Sha Tin to claim that title.
In the Mile, Maurice is joined by two Godolphin runners from either end of the globe. Safety Check, from Great Britain via Dubai where he is a recent dual Group Two winner, will be the first Hong Kong runner for Charlie Appleby, while Bow Creek comes from John O’Shea’s Australian operation for the boys in blue. O’Shea has been before, unsuccessfully, with sprinter Sea Siren and miler Racing To Win but Bow Creek will be his first Hong Kong runner since taking up the position at Godolphin.
Dual Group One-winning mare Suavito, from the Melbourne yard of Nigel Blackiston, completes the four visitors for the Champions Mile.
Injured Able Friend is of course missing but the other local runners who chased Maurice home in December are not – Giant Treasure, Contentment, Beauty Flame and Beauty Only all amongst the invitations. Caspar Fownes flagged his intentions on Tuesday with late Champions Mile entries for Gun Pit and Dundonnell and Ricky Yiu Poon-fai-trained Packing Pins, going back up to the mile, and Blizzard, returning from the Derby, add some interest.
The Chairman’s Sprint Prize is showing the benefit of elevation to Group One international status and repositioning as part of the Global Sprint Challenge to fill the void left by cancellation of Singapore’s internationals, and Australia’s Chautauqua and Buffering, along with Breeders’ Cup-winning Mongolian Saturday, are the rewards.
Rob Heathcote-trained eight-year-old war horse Buffering failed in the 2014 Hong Kong Sprint but his preparation had been hampered by a foot abscess in the days leading up and the seven-time Group One winner comes in top form this time, having put away Peniaphobia amongst others in the Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai.
The Hawkes family-trained Chautauqua also carries a 121 international rating and comes off another stunning last-to-first finish to win his second consecutive Group One T J Smith Stakes last Saturday in Sydney, his fourth Group One win victory.
He had been targeted for Hong Kong last December but the trip was abandoned after the horse suffered a minor injury, while US-based Mongolian Saturday did make it to Sha Tin in December, finishing a creditable fifth to Peniaphobia after racing wide.
They will be met by the best 11 Hong Kong has to offer and none of the big names are missing, with invitations extended to Aerovelocity, the Hong Kong Sprint placegetters from December in Peniaphobia, Gold-Fun and Not Listenin’tome, as well as rising stars Thewizardofoz, Lucky Bubbles and Amazing Kids.