The Longines Hong Kong International Races is just three weeks away and one rival trainer made the trip to Sha Tin to scout out his opposition ahead of the marquee event.
British horseman William Haggas spent a large part of Sunday in the mounting yard taking it all in and confirmed his filly One Master would compete in the Hong Kong Mile.
The four-year-old filly tasted Group One success in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp last month before finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, a length behind winner Expert Eye.
“She ran very well in the Breeders’ Cup, she wasn’t beaten very far and had a bad draw,” Haggas said.
And surprisingly, Haggas was not too deterred about One Master’s chances after watching Beauty Generation smash the track record in the Jockey Club Mile.
In fact, he took a positive out of it, hoping that might be his peak performance.
“He’s obviously a very good horse,” Haggas said. “But maybe there was a chink in his armour today. I know he broke the track record but he did hang to the left. It is very difficult to beat the locals but we’ll try.”
The full list of internationals making the journey to Hong Kong will be released by the Jockey Club on Wednesday and chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges is happy with how things are progressing.
The accolades keep piling up for Beauty Generation: HK's Horse of the Year - and the world's highest rated specialist turf miler - overcomes a troubled trip in a fiercely-run race to break the track record in the BOCHK Jockey Club Mile. #HKracing pic.twitter.com/WzdRTIHIuT— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) November 18, 2018
“I think [Hong Kong] has an extremely strong team. There was a little bit of concern about the generational change but fortunately the strength and depth we have is encouraging,” he said.
“The competition for international runners gets tougher and tougher with more events, so you’re always thinking about what you can do to keep your position but it looks positive.”
The Hong Kong Vase is one race already starting to take shape with Joseph O’Brien’s Irish Derby winner Latrobe coming, as is Charlie Fellow’s Prince Of Arran after his third in the Melbourne Cup, while the Ed Dunlop-trained Red Verdon should also be there.
No Dubai plans for Elusive State
Tony Millard has laughed off suggestions in-form dirt horse Elusive State could be Dubai bound for a World Cup tilt, instead opting for a break.
The five-year-old is in red-hot form on the all-weather track, winning five of his last six starts, including the last three on the trot after arriving in Millard’s stable at the start of this season.
With jockey Chad Schofield forced to go back to last and come around the field on the home turn on Sunday, Millard said the run was a “gut buster”.
Elusive State makes it 3-3 since joining Tony Millard in R3 at Sha Tin and still has more to give judged on the way he loops and swoops his rivals under @SchofieldChad #HKracing pic.twitter.com/UmxOAHePBA— HKJC Racing (@HKJC_Racing) November 18, 2018
“He did it the hardest way you can do and he still won,” he said. “From Class Three to Dubai is a long way. I don’t even want to entertain that thought.”
With his next start set to see him jump up to Class Two company, races become much harder for Millard to choose, indicating he might not be back until 2019.
“We will see what the options are, there’s not a lot of these races. He had it really tough today, really tough,” he said.
“They are very limited here in the amount of races you can get, I haven’t seen one on the calendar yet. If there is one in that special meeting [December 29] then there’s going to be that one and not one for months.”
Singapore’s international races on hold for 2019
Disappointing news coming out of Singapore during the week with the announcement the international races scheduled for May 25 have been put on hold.
The Singapore Turf Club made the S$1.5 million (HK$8.5 million) Kranji Mile an invitational event earlier this year, dipping its toe back in the water of international racing after a short hiatus before relaunching the full slate in 2019, but those plans have been scuppered for now.
It is a blow for Hong Kong connections, who have a strong record in Singapore – raiders from Sha Tin won the last three editions of the KrisFlyer International Sprint (1,200m) and the Singapore Airlines International Cup (2,000m) before they were discontinued in 2015.
WATCH:— ᴛᴏᴍ ᴡᴏᴏᴅ (@tommentatornz) May 26, 2018
SOUTHERN LEGEND dominated from the onset in the 2018 Kranji Mile for trainer Caspar Fownes, ridden to success by @zpurton who produced the goods in two G1 races this evening. Won by 3L to make it HK 1-2, 3rd prize Nova Strike @SGTurfClub @HKJC_Racing #SGRacing #KranjiMile pic.twitter.com/RpZr58nLaa
The date worked nicely to attract horses coming out of Champions Day (April 28) and given the performances of Southern Legend and Horse Of Fortune at the Kranji Mile in May (they finished one-two), it is likely a host of Hong Kong horses would have made the trip to the Lion City.
The positive is the Kranji Mile will remain an invitational race, so there is an option for at least a couple of horses to fly the Bauhinia flag in Singapore next year.
The move to put a hold on the international event came amid broader changes to racing in Singapore, none of which are positive for racing.
Prize money was slashed virtually across the board, while two feature races – the Group One Patron’s Bowl and Group Three Garden City Trophy – were discontinued.
Yu joins Hall as assistant trainer
Lost in the announcement of Joao Moreira’s return to Hong Kong, the licensing committee also revealed former jockey Carol Yu Wing-sze has joined David Hall’s team as his second assistant trainer.
Yu, who retired from race riding in 2000, had been Michael Freedman’s assistant during his Hong Kong stint after holding the same position with Tony Millard.
She made the move at the start of last week and her assistant trainer II licence is granted until the end of this season.