Coolmore heads into the Hong Kong Mile double-handed with talented three-year-olds Lancaster Bomber and Roly Poly but the global racing giant will have its work cut out taking the race from the firm grip of a still-strong local group.
The Aidan O’Brien-trained pair arrive at Sha Tin via the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar earlier this month where Lancaster Bomber was second at Group One level for the third time this year and Roly Poly’s 11th was better than it looked on paper.
As a filly, Roly Poly not only gets a five-pound weight advantage over her older male rivals, she brings back type form having won three Group One races this year.
After twice finishing second to stablemate Winter early in the season, Roly Poly bounced back with victories against her own sex in the Falmouth Stakes, Prix Rothschild and Sun Chariot Stakes.
Champions Day hero Librisa Breeze steps up from sprints to a mile and gives the race a sixth international Group One winner but the visitors find themselves in a race where the home field advantage is well established.
It has been 13 years since a horse trained outside Hong Kong or Japan won the Mile and only two of the 18 winners since the race was switched to 1,600m have managed the feat.
Local horses have captured 10 of the past 11 editions of the race and a highly rated group will be fancied to keep the trophy on home soil.
Beauty Only will have to become the first horse to win consecutive Miles since Good Ba Ba brought up a hat-trick in 2009 and his run in the Jockey Club Mile indicates he is on target along with the John Moore-trained placegetters Helene Paragon and Beauty Generation.
Joao Moreira’s decision to stick with the winner of that race, Seasons Bloom, will also boost hopes of Danny Chum Chap-shing becoming the first Chinese trainer to win the HK$23 million feature.
Moreira could have ridden Japanese Group One winner Satono Aladdin, who has been unplaced in two previous visits to Sha Tin and disappointing this time in, but at his best could be good enough under Australian jockey Hugh Bowman.
Group Two winner Lightning Spear has been around the placings in top mile events in Europe and gives Qatar Racing a presence while Al Shaqab Racing will be represented by Karar.