Pixie Knight is all the rage for Sunday’s Group One Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) with punters expecting the Japanese speedster to account for the local brigade and take home the HK$13.68 million first prize.
The price for the talented three-year-old has been crunched into $2.45 with international fixed-odds bookmakers, making him a clear stand-out, ahead of compatriot Resistencia ($5.50) with Francis Lui Kin-wai’s Lucky Patch ($7) on the next line.
There is an air of confidence around Pixie Knight’s camp and it has built after discovering his true calling in the middle of the year.
The Hidetaka Otonashi-trained colt’s first five starts were either at 1,400m or 1,600m and while he was successful at both trips, he’s been a different horse since dropping down to six furlongs.
After running second at Group Three and Group Two level, Pixie Knight showed his class with a dominant victory in the Group One Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama in October.
“I always thought he was a sprinter but why I chose the mile races is because in Japan the three-year-old racing at Group One level they only have 1,600m races so we just used him at 1,600m but I always thought he was a sprinter,” Otonashi said.
His jockey Yuichi Fukunaga echoed that sentiment.
“I was always thinking he is a sprinter but we have no choice but to race him in the mile races,” he said. “He has a lot of speed in the mile so he always goes to the front in the mile races but if he races over 1,200m we can choose any position.”
With only two Group Ones over 1,200m each year in Japan, it is only natural the top performers from the Sprinters Stakes often look to compete in the Hong Kong Sprint but Pixie Knight has another connection to the city.
He is the first of Maurice’s progeny to win a Group One and the sire absolutely relished his trips to Sha Tin, winning the Hong Kong Mile, the Champions Mile and the Hong Kong Cup in the space of 12 months.
“Maurice had success in Hong Kong so this horse may be suited to Hong Kong,” Otonashi said.
For Fukunaga, the only real concern is the weight swing with Sprinters Stakes runner-up Resistencia, who meets Pixie Knight four pounds better off for the two-length defeat.
“I think he has a lot of potential so I have confidence but I’m just concerned that in the Sprinters Stakes we had a weight difference,” he said.
Fukunaga expects to settle Pixie Knight just behind the speed from barrier eight – following the same formula used in that last-start win – “but I still have to discuss it with the trainer”.
Resistencia has the gate directly inside Pixie Knight and Belgian ace Christophe Soumillon will be looking to get a cart into the race.
“I’m quite happy with the draw, we are in the middle so if we can follow some nice horses that will be great, I think the two [other] Japanese horses look quite strong as well and it’s a very open race,” Soumillon said, referring to Pixie Knight and Danon Smash.
Yuga Kawada partners the latter, who won the Hong Kong Sprint last year at $22 before failing in the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize in April as favourite.
He hasn’t been in the same sort of form as 12 months ago – he came second in the 2020 Sprinters Stakes and could only manage fifth this year – but his jockey remains optimistic.
“It was a fantastic result winning this race last year … last start he wasn’t quite able to show his best but I’m very confident going into Sunday,” Kawada said. “I’m very much looking forward to riding him.”