The uncertainty of Covid-19 means there is no guarantee they will actually make it to Sha Tin but there is hope December’s Longines Hong Kong International Races can still be a truly global event with superstars from Japan, Britain, Ireland, France, Australia and Singapore among the entries.
The numbers are impressive, with 162 horses from 10 different jurisdictions – including 61 Group One winners – expressing interest in the four features, which are worth HK$95 million.
And some of the names will be well known to racing fans around the planet – Japanese heroes Almond Eye and Salios, European guns Magical, Addeybb and Mogul, top-class Australians Nature Strip and Verry Elleegant, as well as Singapore’s best horse Inferno.
Given the pandemic means the goalposts continue to move, it remains to be seen how many internationals will compete – Japan won three of the four races last year – but it is a positive step for organisers.
“Considering the current climate in regard to the Covid-19 situation, it just reiterates that the Longines Hong Kong International Races are recognised the world over as one of the sport’s truly great events,” Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding said. “This is something that we are extremely proud of and this year we anticipate another phenomenal day of elite sport.
“To attract global stars like Almond Eye and Magical is testament to how appealing Hong Kong racing is in the eyes of the world’s leading horsemen. Hong Kong stages superb sport with excellent prize money and on December 13 Sha Tin will take centre stage with the excitement of four world-class championship races.”
The Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) is normally the headline act and Japanese horses dominate the entries, with last year’s champion Win Bright leading the way, alongside Almond Eye, who was a late withdrawal for that contest. Saturnalia, Danon Premium, Loves Only You and Deirdre are also there.
Legendary trainer Aidan O’Brien has Magical, Mogul, last year’s runner-up Magic Wand and Cox Plate runner-up Armory in the mix. Three-time Group One winner Addeybb leads the charge from Britain, wile French hopes Skalleti and The Revenant are also there.
With 2018 Hong Kong Vase winner Exultant likely to compete over 2,400m and emerging superstar Golden Sixty set to go to the Mile, there is not a lot of depth among the home team, with perhaps Furore the top seed.
Exultant is the stand-out in the Vase (2,400m), but he faces a tough task if the international raiders take part.
Chris Waller’s Caulfield Cup winner Verry Elleegant is entered, as are O’Brien’s stars Anthony Van Dyck and Tiger Moth, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe runner-up In Swoop and Dermot Weld’s two-time Group One winner Tarnawa. From Japan, Fierement looks the main danger. German galloper Quest The Moon is down for both the Vase and the Cup.
After nine straight victories, the Francis Lui Kin-wai-trained Golden Sixty looks the early favourite for the Hong Kong Mile (1,600m) while Group One champs from Sha Tin in Beauty Generation, Southern Legend and Waikuku are also nominated.
Last year’s winner Admire Mars could be back to defend his title with fellow Group One compatriots Indy Champ, Salios and Lauda Sion potential runners. From Europe, Andre Fabre’s Alson, the William Haggas-trained One Master and O’Brien’s Circus Maximus have all been entered. Australian star Alligator Blood is in the mix as well, as is Singapore Derby winner Top Knight.
All eyes will be on Classique Legend in the Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m), the gun five-year-old one horse guaranteed to jet in from overseas as he is set to join Caspar Fownes’ stable after winning the Everest in Sydney earlier this month.
Waller’s Nature Strip, who came seventh in the Everest and is a four-time Group One winner, is the lone entry from Australia, while Singapore’s star speedster Inferno is also a chance.
New Zealand’s sole nomination for the meeting comes from Lance O’Sullivan’s Princess Rihanna, while there are two horses from the United States in the mix – Oleksandra and Four Wheel Drive. British Group One winners Oxted and Glen Shiel are also vying for tickets to the event.
The final fields for the four features will be announced next month.