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Small field ahead for the Champions Mile – hoping Beauty Generation can continue his fine form this season – @Georgejmoore8
All things being equal, the Group One FWD Champions Mile will be nothing more than a track gallop for Hong Kong’s superstar.
He faces just six local rivals, all of whom he has handled with ease previously, so he should win with a leg in the air.
Racing fans were hoping an international rival or two would come and challenge Beauty Generation – but it is a long way to come to run second (at best) when there are so many other options (Dubai, Australia, Europe) around at this time of year.
Despite that disappointment, the Jockey Club should be delighted with the overseas contingent coming to Hong Kong for the other two features on Champions Day.
With five coming for the QE II Cup and another four in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, the total of nine represents a significant increase on previous years.
This is just the fourth year you can consider the races as a triumvirate – the Chairman’s Sprint Prize was run in February in 2015 – but for the first two seasons they were run a week apart.
On one Sunday there was the Champions Mile and Chairman’s Sprint Prize with the QE II Cup and Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup seven days later.
Last year, the Jockey Club made the (correct) decision to put all the Group Ones on the same card, rebrand it Champions Day (could have done better) and add an extra HK$8 million in prize money across the three races to try and increase interest.
On face value, it seems to have worked (along with finding an interim resolution to the quarantine stand-off with Australia).
In 2016, there were six internationals across the three races – Japan superstar Maurice won the Champions Mile and Aussie cult hero Chautauqua took out the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
There were five visitors in 2017 (Japanese horse Neorealism won the QE II) and just four in 2018.
They were two challenging years as the field sizes were well below what the Jockey Club would want – all six races had between seven and 10 runners.
So the fact there is a full field of 14 for the QE II – and it looks really competitive – is a big win. It is exactly the type of race you would want to see with nine previous Group One winners, in addition to the Hong Kong Derby champion. Tick.
Given the dearth of quality Hong Kong short-course horses at the moment, it is no shock to see some talented internationals eye off the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Anyone with a legitimately good sprinter would have had to give serious consideration to making the trip – it might be the best opportunity any foreigner has to win a 1,200m Group One at Sha Tin – so connections of Santa Ana Lane and Viddora should feel pretty good about their chances.
It was always going to take time to build Champions Day into a major international race day with relevancy, given where it fits on the world racing calendar.
It is never going to rival December’s Longines Hong Kong International Races – that is firmly established as the premier event in the eyes of the world – but it can still grow into its own niche event and this is a positive step forward.