The light foreign representation in Hong Kong’s spring features has continued with just two international entries announced for the Group One Champions Mile after the Group One Audemars Piguet QEII Cup was dealt a blow with the withdrawal of Mubtaahij.
Hong Kong-owned but English-trained, runners Convey and Stormy Antarctic will contest an eight-runner Champions Mile on May 7 while French-trained Signs Of Blessing will be the sole overseas representative in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize on the same day.
The QEII Cup, to be run a week earlier, was further weakened when trainer Mike de Kock informed Jockey Club officials that Mubtaahij would not make the trip, leaving the $20 million race with just eight runners and three internationals.
A minor setback, believed to be filling in a leg, means Mubtaahij will skip the race but also results in stablemate Liquid Mercury missing the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup on the same day.
Stormy Antarctic, raced by Siu family patriarch Siu Pak Kwan and Convey, owned by prominent Hong Kong-based businessman Robert Ng Chee Siong, will clash with John Moore’s Rapper Dragon in the Champions Mile.
The Siu family have owned a host of top class horses in Hong Kong and Stormy Antarctic gives them a shot at a first Champions Mile, while Ng has also raced Group race performers at home and a week earlier he will be represented by Dicton in the Group One Audemars Piguet QEII Cup.
Stormy Antarctic won the Group Three Craven Stakes early in his three-year-old campaign last year and although subsequently outclassed in England, the Ed Walker trainee did manage a Group One second in France.
A narrow second, first-up for five months, in the Listed Doncaster Mile three weeks ago means Stormy Antarctic arrives in form.
So too does Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old Convey, having won two-from-two this time on the all-weather, with victory in the Group Three Winter Derby Stakes and the Easter Classic last week.
The pair will take on six local entrants, with three provided by Moore, and if Rapper Dragon can give his trainer a seventh win in the race it would also secure horse of the year honours for the Derby winner.
“He might already be horse of the year – he certainly has a great chance of pulling it off, but we will leave that to the voting committee,” he said.
The only real surprise among announcements for the two Group One features on May 7 was that Moore will not start rising star Magic Legend in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
The trainer will instead stick to handicaps with his three-year-old, who has won four-from-four since arriving from Australia, and contest a 105-80 ratings band Class Two up the straight on the same day.
“Last Sunday we felt like we would run in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, but once I had a chat to the owner and looked at the schedule we had a change of heart,” Moore said. “I think the 1,000m race was a much kinder progression for him, the Group One was really a case of throwing him in the deep end. When we reflected on it, he is only three and given that option of the Class Two we thought we would try and look after a talented young horse.”
The Chairman’s Sprint Prize was won by an international runner for the first time last year when Chautauqua charged home from last but owners elected against a return with the grey.
French-trained Signs Of Blessing, fifth in last year’s Group One Hong Kong Sprint, is the only foreign-trained runner in the $14 million race, which has attracted a capacity 14 runner field.