With all the Group races behind us, it’s the time of the season for high-profile retirements and this past fortnight has been no exception.
Exultant was the biggest name to grace the list while dual Group Three winner and Hong Kong Sprint runner-up Jolly Banner was officially retired on Monday, as was the horse who almost caused an enormous upset in last year’s Derby in Playa Del Puente.
Another horse who appeared on that list is forgotten Group One winner Glorious Forever.
He is best known for his victory in the 2018 Hong Kong Cup with Silvestre de Sousa leading from start to finish in the city’s richest race.
But a series of injuries curtailed his career and he never won another race, his last effort a sixth when trying to defend his crown 12 months later.
Connections transferred Glorious Forever from Frankie Lor Fu-chuen to Chris So Wai-yin to see if he could nurse him back to health, but his body wasn’t up to the rigours of racing and finally the plug was pulled.
“He was OK but it was hard to bring him back because we found out he still had a hole in his suspensory,” So said. “We gave him a long time and I tried to bring him back, but I discussed it with the vet department and they just thought it wouldn’t be easy to bring him back. It’s sad. He’s a big horse and that’s racing.”
Glorious Forever’s full brother Time Warp will also grace the retirement list in the coming days, connections confirming he won’t continue on after running last in the Group Three Premier Plate on Sunday.
Another interesting name appeared last week in Circuit Number One, who sits at the opposite end of the scale.
Most punters will only remember Circuit Number One as a 25-start maiden who spent his final 10 starts in Class Five, but he has another claim to fame.
He is a half-brother to 2017 Epsom Derby winner Wings Of Eagles and holds the record as the most expensive purchase from the Hong Kong International Sale, going under the hammer for HK$11 million in 2018.
Despite the price tag, Circuit Number One never flashed any ability and only placed in four of his runs, earning just HK$944,845 in prize money.
Which brings us to …
Six prospects withdrawn from HKIS
Sunday’s Hong Kong International Sale has undergone a host of transformations and date shifts as a result of Covid-19 restrictions and now more than a quarter of the horses set to go to auction have been withdrawn.
On Wednesday, the Jockey Club announced six of the prospects have been pulled from the sale and “will be sent to Conghua racecourse for a period of time and further assessed by club veterinarians at a later date for probable sale by tender”.
It appears they have pulled up sore or suffered injuries after the breeze-ups on Saturday, which is not a great sign.
Among those are two of the most expensive horses in the group – lot 12 (a colt by Exceed And Excel who cost A$760,000) and lot 16 (a gelding by I Am Invincible who cost A$700,000).
It certainly changes the complexion of the sale and with just 16 horses available it will be interesting to see how owners respond.
The strength of the sale is that it gives Hong Kong owners a chance to buy well-bred youngsters within something vaguely resembling a free market. They are not beholden to bloodstock agents or trainers and are free to spend whatever they like on a horse that is right in front of them.
Now, nobody has any idea if they’ve got any ability or not – they haven’t been tested at all – but that’s the risk you take. You might end up with Pakistan Star, you might end up with Circuit Number One or anywhere in between.
The problem with the “International Sales Graduates” is they haven’t had the same level of work put into them as the other unraced horses – the “Private Purchase Griffins” – and they typically need more time.
While the ISGs have been broken in, they haven’t undergone full racing preparations and barrier trials like the PPGs.
Perhaps that is a tweak that could be made in the future to better prepare these young horses for life in Hong Kong and give their owners a better idea of what they are buying.
Thoughts with our colleagues
The landscape of the Hong Kong media will change dramatically after the closure of Apple Daily this week and it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge our colleagues at the Cantonese news outlet.
Our thoughts are with the good people who have lost their jobs in disheartening circumstances, particularly those in the racing team.
In every sense, it is a big loss.