Aidan O’Brien’s dual Group One winner Japan is set to be withdrawn from the Group One Hong Kong Cup (2,000m), with connections poised to send the five-year-old to stud in Germany after his eighth in Sunday’s Japan Cup.
While Jockey Club executive Bill Nader said officials would wait until Monday for confirmation from Coolmore that Japan will not make the trip to Sha Tin, the Racing Post reported over the weekend that the Japan Cup was Japan’s final race.
“Coolmore will get back to us but published reports say Japan is off to stud duty in Germany, while we are waiting to hear on what they wish to do with Broome,” Nader said.
O’Brien’s second Japan Cup runner with an entry for the Longines Hong Kong International Races, Broome finished a distant 11th behind winner Contrail and there must now be some doubt whether he takes his place in the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2,400m) come December 12.
Japan will be the highest-profile withdrawal so far from Hong Kong’s showcase meeting and follows the removal of the David Hayes-trained Super Wealthy and John Size’s Champion’s Way on Friday.
Japan’s withdrawal will reduce the Hong Kong Cup field to 12, while the Sprint is also down to an even dozen after Hayes decided to instead target the Group Three Bauhinia Sprint Trophy (1,000m) on January 1 with Super Wealthy.
“He’s going well but that race is there and that’s what he is – a Group Three 1,000m horse,” Hayes said.
Champion’s Way is also fit and well but Size confirmed connections decided against pushing ahead to the Hong Kong Mile with a horse who has proven across his 29-start career to be a touch off Hong Kong’s best gallopers.
Lane secures HKIR rides
Star Australian jockey Damian Lane will take part in three of the Group Ones on international day after he competes in the International Jockeys’ Championship.
The 27-year-old, who has already won eight races in Hong Kong during previous short-term stints, will reunite with the Noriyuki Hori-trained Salios in the Hong Kong Mile and he partners Computer Patch in the Sprint, while trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing confirmed he will jump aboard Butterfield in the Vase.
Lane has joined forces with Salios twice, running second to Contrail in a couple of Group Ones, the Satsuki Sho (Japanese 2,000 Guineas) and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby) last year.
“I’m really looking forward to being back in Hong Kong, I’ve had a little bit of success there, and I’m looking forward to being part of the [IJC] for the first time,” Lane told Racing.com.
“I’ve picked up Computer Patch in the Sprint and I ride my good mate Salios in the Hong Kong Mile and he’ll be a good chance.”
Meanwhile, fellow Australian-based rider James McDonald revealed he won’t be able to stay for HKIR after taking part in the IJC as prior commitments and Covid-19 rules mean his stay in Hong Kong will only be a short one.
“Unfortunately I can’t this year because of Queensland’s Covid restrictions,” McDonald confirmed on HK Direct. “I’m actually committed to a filly [Coolangatta] up in Queensland on the 26th and [there is a policy] where I have to do a two-week quarantine period before I can ride there so it rules me out by one day. I would’ve loved to have competed there but just due to that fact I can’t stay for the Sunday.”
Bentley breaks drought with Victory
Harry Bentley received a well-earned confidence boost as he piloted Everyone’s Victory to his maiden victory in the Class Four Chevalier Construction Handicap (1,200m).
The Englishman had been riding well without a lot of luck – he’d had 12 placings since his previous victory on October 6 – but returned to the winner’s list after lifting Frankie Lor Fu-chuen’s four-year-old over the top of short-priced favourite Whizz Kid.
“It was a good win, he’s been knocking on the door for a while actually,” Bentley said. “He’s a horse that closes really well, so the fact the pace was so quick in front gave me something to aim at and he was always going to catch the lead horse.
“It’s been a while so this win is very much welcomed. Hopefully I can get on a bit of a roll and it’s good to get a winner for Frankie.”
The victory was Bentley’s fourth of the campaign while Lor’s stunning start continues – he’s a runaway leader in the trainers’ championship with 24 successes from 23 meetings.
Cruz praises ‘perfect’ Ho
Tony Cruz was left marvelling at the perfection of Vincent Ho Chak-yiu’s efforts aboard Brave Power and California Concord after the pair reeled off a running double.
Ho managed to find cover in the three-wide line from gate 14 aboard Brave Power in the Class Five Chevalier E & M Engineering Handicap (1,400m) before pulling the five-year-old out into the middle of the track in the straight and allowing him to finish over the top of his rivals.
“Brave Power, if he’s trapped between horses he doesn’t accelerate. He’s got to be wide and you have to wind him up. Once he comes into the straight, he must see daylight and Vincent got it perfectly this way and that’s why he could finish this way,” Cruz said of the gelding, who broke his maiden at start 17.
“If you are stuck in between horses and you try to make a move, he won’t accelerate. He’s got a big slow action. He’s got awful crooked legs. This is the first horse I’ve had in my life that has all four crooked legs. Lucky he’s still sound.”
Ho allowed California Concord to travel outside leader Lockheed in the Class Three Chevalier Environmental Engineering Handicap (1,200m) before assuming control about 300m from home.
The son of Fastnet Rock proved too strong in the straight to salute at $6.20, with $1.70 favourite Five Elements travelling wide throughout before finishing midfield.
“Vincent rode a perfect race [aboard California Concord], too. He waited long enough to press the button. He rode the perfect race, Vincent Ho – I’m very happy about that,” Cruz said.