The Jockey Club believes punters will be “very excited” when fields for the Hong Kong International Races are announced despite Almond Eye headlining a host of big-name withdrawals for the December 13 showcase.
It was confirmed on Thursday Almond Eye will have her final run in the Japan Cup later this month, dashing slim hopes the darling of Japanese racing would bow out in the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin.
“She’s a legend in Japan so when you weigh it all up, I thought we were a low percentage chance that she might come here,” said director of racing business and operations Bill Nader.
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The first two finishers in this year’s Cox Plate will also be absent from HKIR, with Nader confirming winner Sir Dragonet has “had a temperature and they think it’s better they don’t pursue it this year”, despite connections considering paying the late entry fee for the Vase.
Runner-up Armory had been very much in the conversation after trainer Aidan O’Brien put Hong Kong on the table, however the plan has changed for the gun three-year-old.
“He’s done for the year and will come back as a four-year-old,” Nader said.
The Jockey Club remains confident O’Brien will still have a presence on international day, with seven-time Group One winner Magical cautiously in the frame 12 months after her dramatic withdrawal from the Hong Kong Cup.
After being named in the official field, Magical was swiftly withdrawn and it was announced she would be retired, but the five-year-old – who holds entries for the Cup and the Vase – is very much still racing.
“We’ll see how she comes out of the race on Saturday, but she could go to Hong Kong,” O’Brien said after the mare’s second in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last weekend.
Japanese galloper Indy Champ is considered unlikely to launch a second tilt at the Hong Kong Mile after finishing seventh as the equal favourite last year.
Other confirmed outs include star Australian pair Nature Strip and Fierce Impact, while British stayer Addeybb is very unlikely to attend.
Among those who have declared their intention to come to Hong Kong are Japanese quartet Chrono Genesis, Win Bright, Danon Premium and Danon Smash, with Nader indicating there will be plenty of big names unveiled on November 25.
“It’s going to be a very good HKIR and when we’re allowed to the reveal the names of the horses coming, I think everyone is going to be very excited,” Nader said.
Meanwhile, the Jockey Club confirmed on Thursday that Matthew Poon Ming-fai has sustained chest injuries, including fractured ribs, after being thrown from The Elites at Happy Valley on Wednesday night and will be in hospital for several days.