Japanese superstar Almond Eye is the headline act among the 262 nominations received for the HK$93 million Longines Hong Kong International Races on December 9.
Horses from 12 racing jurisdictions from across the globe have been included after the first stage of entries for the showcase event, which includes 191 individual horses (70 hold entries for more than one race).
While the overall number of horses nominated is down on last year (191 to 210), the quality is up with 67 individual Group One winners entered compared to 59 in 2017.
Hong Kong leads the way with 44 horses – with the likes of defending Hong Kong Mile hero Beauty Generation, reigning Sprint winner Mr Stunning, Cup champion Time Warp and fan favourite Pakistan Star leading the way.
The dominance of Beauty Generation early this season has not scared away any of the internationals as the Mile holds the most nominations of any of the four Group Ones with 75.
Just behind the locals is the Land of the Rising Sun with 42 entries, the most notable being Almond Eye, who recently completed the Japan Fillies’ Triple Crown and has strung together five consecutive wins. The Sakae Kunieda-trained three-year-old holds nominations for both the Hong Kong Cup and the Mile.
Of the others from Japan, Neorealism, the 2017 QE II Cup victor is down for the Cup and the Mile, two-time Group One winner Fine Needle has registered for the Sprint, while 2016 Vase winner Satono Crown could be back for another tilt at the 2,400m contest.
Speaking of the Vase, the Europeans should have a strong presence with 15 entries from Great Britain, seven from France (including the Andre Fabre trio of Talismanic, Cloth Of Stars and Waldgeist), two from Germany, one Italian and 11 from Ireland (Aidan O’Brien’s Capri and Kew Gardens leading the charge along with son Joseph’s Irish Derby winner Latrobe).
The quarantine dispute with Australia has not stopped trainers from Down Under nominating 24 horses for HKIR, including 15 Group One winners.
Their biggest presence is in the Sprint, with nine entries, starting with Everest runner-up and three-time Group One winner Trapeze Artist.
Time is ticking though to provide an interim solution to the stand-off – as it stands horses cannot travel directly from Hong Kong to Australia and have to spend six months in a third country – so if it is not resolved it makes it impractical for any of those horses to make the trip.
Singapore boasts two entries for the 1,200m contest, there are five from the United States, while O’Brien’s Group One winner U S Navy Flag is also there.
New Zealand has one entry – Jon Snow in the Vase while there is one Czech Republic-trained nomination, Subway Dancer, who finished third in the Group One Champions Stakes to Cracksman at Ascot on the weekend. South Africa and the United Arab Emirates will not be represented this year.
Other than the absence of mighty mares Winx and Enable, who would have been at the top of the wish list, there are a host of genuine A-graders from across the world and the Jockey Club is thrilled with the calibre of entries.
“It is very pleasing to see such exciting quality among the nominations for this year’s Hong Kong International Races, which is long-established as one of the global sport’s truly great events,” Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding said.
“Hong Kong in December is a destination that appeals to the world’s great horsemen and that is borne out by the fact that we have entries from 12 jurisdictions, with many of the world’s most prominent trainers and owners looking to end their year on a high at Sha Tin in four career-defining races.”