Highland Reel winning the 2015 Hong Kong Vase Image supplied by Hong Kong Jockey Club

Highland Reel winning the 2015 Hong Kong Vase
Image supplied by Hong Kong Jockey Club

A world class array of Group 1 stars will go to war in Hong Kong for horseracing’s annual year-end major, the HK$83 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, on Sunday, 11 December. There are 26 G1 winners among the 56 selected runners, including all four of last year’s champions: Japan’s outstanding Maurice and the mercurial yet brilliant A Shin Hikari, Ireland’s remarkable Highland Reel, and Hong Kong’s own Peniaphobia.

The LONGINES HKIR comprises the HK$25 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the HK$23 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), the HK$18.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the HK$16.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m). With 28 overseas runners and 28 Hong Kong representatives, horses from nine international jurisdictions are set to compete at this year’s Turf World Championships.

Japaese star Maurice in action Image supplied by Hong Kong Jockey Club

Japaese star Maurice in action
Image supplied by Hong Kong Jockey Club

Maurice won an epic edition of last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile and will return this time to attempt a rare LONGINES HKIR double, with victory in what is shaping to be a stellar edition of the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m). Jim And Tonic took the same route in 1998 and 1999 and is the only horse to have achieved victory in two different HKIR contests.

Japan’s 2015 Horse of the Year is two from two at Sha Tin, having carried off the G1 Champions Mile in May. Trainer Noriyuki Hori’s superstar bounced back from two excusable defeats to slam a top-class field in October’s G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) – a fifth G1 triumph and first win at 2000m.

Maurice is set to lead a record 13-strong Japanese contingent at the LONGINES HKIR and is one of 10 G1 winners among the 14 selected runners for the Cup. A Shin Hikari dominated last year’s race with a stunning front-running display and topped the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings this spring after a wide margin victory in France’s G1 Prix d’Ispahan. Japan’s strong hand in the race also includes the JRA’s 2015 2000m champion Lovely Day, recent G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2200m) winner Queens Ring, and the high-class Staphanos.

Elliptique Image supplied by The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Elliptique
Image supplied by The Hong Kong Jockey Club

France’s standout trainer Andre Fabre will seek a third HKIR win with Elliptique, while Germany’s Potemkin, a G1 winner, too, is another European challenger for the event’s showcase race. Four-time G1 winner Designs On Rome took the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup for Hong Kong in 2014 and will lead the local challenge.

Able Friend Image supplied by The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Able Friend
Image supplied by The Hong Kong Jockey Club

Able Friend is one of 14 selected for the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile. John Moore’s stable star was imperious in winning the 2014 edition but Maurice was a shade too good for him in 2015. After returning from injury, he aims to become the first horse to regain the Mile title. Set against him are two Japanese stars, both defeaters of Maurice this year. Three-time G1 winner Logotype surprised Japan’s champ in June’s G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m), while Neorealism, an unlucky third in the recent G1 Mile Championship, beat Maurice in August’s G2 Sapporo Kinen (2000m). Another Japanese raider is Satono Aladdin, a good fifth in the G1 Mile Championship at Kyoto last time. Aidan O’Brien’s smart Cougar Mountain is engaged for Ireland.

Hong Kong’s challengers for the Mile also feature G1 winners Contentment, Giant Treasure and Romantic Touch, as well as recent G2 Jockey Club Mile hero Beauty Only, last season’s champion miler Sun Jewellery and the exciting rising star Helene Paragon.

This year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (14 selected) is shaping to be an epic. The home team is packed with talent, Japan’s big two are set to face off, Australia and North America are represented and the Europeans are sending three of their best.

Big Arthur looked to be the heir to two-time Hong Kong Sprint winner Lord Kanaloa’s weighty crown when winning the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) in March. The five-year-old encountered traffic problems in the second of Japan’s two G1 sprints, the Sprinters Stakes (2 October), as Red Falx powered wide on the track for a breakthrough victory. The pair heads to Sha Tin to decide championship honours.

Aerovelocity won the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint in 2014 and, after missing last year’s race, will aim to emulate former world champion sprinter Sacred Kingdom (2007 & 2009), the only horse to date to have regained the Hong Kong Sprint title.  He will face familiar foes in last year’s winner Peniaphobia, recent G2 Jockey Club Sprint winner Not Listenin’tome and the rising star of the Hong Kong sprinting ranks, last season’s G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) runner-up, Lucky Bubbles.

Signs Of Blessing Image supplied by the Hong Kong Jockey Club

Signs Of Blessing
Image supplied by the Hong Kong Jockey Club

France’s Signs Of Blessing won the G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest (1300m) in August, while Profitable, from England, landed the G1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot. Growl, also from the UK, was runner-up in the G1 British Champions Sprint Stakes (1200m) at Ascot in October; America’s Pure Sensation was a close 3rd in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last time; Rebel Dane, the recent G1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) winner, will attempt to end a 15-year wait for a second Australian-trained victor.

Meanwhile, Highland Reel is heading back to Sha Tin in an attempt to become the third dual winner of the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase in the race’s 22-year history (Luso, 1996 & 1997; Doctor Dino, 2007 & 2008). The four-year-old cut his own slice of history in 2015 when he provided Ireland’s champion trainer O’Brien with a first success in Hong Kong.

Highland Reel is perhaps the world’s most widely-travelled top-class racehorse of recent times, and certainly the most successful globe-trotter currently in action. The Galileo colt has contested 14 G1s in seven international jurisdictions since May, 2015, winning four (Breeders’ Cup Turf; King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes; LONGINES Hong Kong Vase; Secretariat Stakes), as well as placing second in October’s G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The Irish star is slated to face 13 others in the Vase this time, including the UK’s popular stayer Big Orange; from Japan the  2014 Oaks winner Nuovo Record – runner-up in last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Cup – and the classy Smart Layer; New Zealand’s G2 Brisbane Cup hero Benzini; and a talented quartet from France, featuring two-time G1 victor Erupt, G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud winner Silverwave, and the G2 winners Garlingari and One Foot In Heaven – the last-named’s dam, Pride, won the Hong Kong Cup in 2006.

Mr. Anthony Kelly, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing Business and Operations, said: “Last year, the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races more than lived up to its reputation as a showcase for exceptional talent. The occasion produced four stunning races, with each winner a world-calibre Group 1 star. In keeping with the event’s tradition of excellence, we are pleased to see the depth of quality to the selected runners for the 2016 races.

“All four of the 2015 champions are set to compete again and the home team will have its work cut out to better the one win achieved last time around. It is particularly exciting to see Maurice’s connections sportingly opting to take on the challenge of the Cup rather than the Mile this time. Add to the mix the rematch between Japan’s Big Arthur and Red Falx, the return of Able Friend, the continuing exploits of Highland Reel, and an altogether world class line-up of challengers primed for competition, and it’s safe to say we are in for a year-end treat on 11 December. The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races is global horseracing at its best.”

 

 

2016 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races

Selected Runners

(as at 23/11/2016)

LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (Group 1) – 1200m

HK$18.5 million (US$2.385 million)

 

Country / Region Int’l Rating Selected Horse Age Sex Weight Trainer
HK 119 * AEROVELOCITY (NZ) 8 g 126 Paul O’Sullivan
HK 119   LUCKY BUBBLES (AUS) 5 g 126 Francis Lui
HK 119 * PENIAPHOBIA (IRE) 5 g 126 Tony Cruz
HK 118   NOT LISTENIN’TOME (AUS) 6 g 126 John Moore
HK 117   AMAZING KIDS (NZ) 5 g 126 John Size
JPN 117 * BIG ARTHUR (JPN) 5 h 126 Kenichi Fujioka
AUS 117 * REBEL DANE (AUS) 7 h 126 Gary Portelli
FR 117 * SIGNS OF BLESSING (IRE) 5 g 126 François Rohaut
GB 116 * PROFITABLE (IRE) 4 c 126 Clive Cox
JPN 116 * RED FALX (JPN) 5 h 126 Tomohito Ozeki
HK 116   STRATHMORE (AUS) 5 g 126 Tony Millard
GB 114   GROWL (GB) 4 g 126 Richard Fahey
USA 112   PURE SENSATION (USA) 5 g 126 Christophe Clement
HK 112   SUPER JOCKEY (NZ) 8 g 126 Tony Millard
(14)
     *  International Group 1 winner

 

LONGINES Hong Kong Mile(Group 1) – 1600m

HK$23 million (US$2.965 million)

 

Country / Region Int’l Rating Selected Horse Age Sex Weight Trainer
HK 119 * ABLE FRIEND (AUS) 7 g 126 John Moore
HK 119 * CONTENTMENT (AUS) 6 g 126 John Size
JPN 119 * LOGOTYPE (JPN) 6 h 126 Tsuyoshi Tanaka
HK 118 * GIANT TREASURE (USA) 5 g 126 Richard Gibson
HK 117   BEAUTY ONLY (IRE) 5 g 126 Tony Cruz
HK 117   HELENE PARAGON (FR) 4 c 126 John Moore
JPN 117   NEOREALISM (JPN) 5 h 126 Noriyuki Hori
HK 116   PACKING PINS (NZ) 6 g 126 Ricky Yiu
HK 115   BEAUTY FLAME (IRE) 6 g 126 Tony Cruz
IRE 115   COUGAR MOUNTAIN (IRE) 5 h 126 Aidan O’Brien
HK 115 * ROMANTIC TOUCH (AUS) 6 g 126 Tony Cruz
JPN 115   SATONO ALADDIN (JPN) 5 h 126 Yasutoshi Ikee
HK 115   SUN JEWELLERY (AUS) 5 g 126 John Size
HK 112   JOYFUL TRINITY (IRE) 4 g 126 John Moore
(14)
     *  International Group 1 winner

 

LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (Group 1) – 2000m

HK$25 million (US$3.223 million)

 

Country / Region Int’l Rating Selected Horse Age Sex Weight Trainer
JPN 129 * A SHIN HIKARI (JPN) 5 h 126 Masanori Sakaguchi
JPN 124 * MAURICE (JPN) 5 h 126 Noriyuki Hori
HK 119 * DESIGNS ON ROME (IRE) 6 g 126 John Moore
HK 118 * BLAZING SPEED (GB) 7 g 126 Tony Cruz
JPN 118   STAPHANOS (JPN) 5 h 126 Hideaki Fujiwara
JPN 117 * LOVELY DAY (JPN) 6 h 126 Yasutoshi Ikee
HK 116 * MILITARY ATTACK (IRE) 8 g 126 Caspar Fownes
HK 115   GUN PIT (AUS) 6 g 126 Caspar Fownes
GER 115 * POTEMKIN (GER) 5 g 126 Andreas Wöhler
HK 115   SECRET WEAPON (GB) 6 g 126 Dennis Yip
FR 114 * ELLIPTIQUE (IRE) 5 h 126 André Fabre
HK 109   HORSE OF FORTUNE (SAF) 6 g 126 Tony Millard
HK 107 * HELENE SUPER STAR (USA) 6 g 126 Tony Cruz
JPN 112 * QUEENS RING (JPN) 4 f 122 Keiji Yoshimura
(14)
     *  International Group 1 winner

 

LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (Group 1) – 2400m

HK$16.5 million (US$2.127 million) 

 

Country / Region Int’l Rating Selected Horse Age Sex Weight Trainer
IRE 123 * HIGHLAND REEL (IRE) 4 c 126 Aidan O’Brien
FR 118 * SILVERWAVE (FR) 4 c 126 Pascal Bary
GB 117   BIG ORANGE (GB) 5 g 126 Michael Bell
FR 117 * ERUPT (IRE) 4 c 126 Francis-Henri Graffard
JPN 117   SATONO CROWN (JPN) 4 c 126 Noriyuki Hori
HK 116   HELENE HAPPY STAR (IRE) 5 g 126 John Moore
FR 114   GARLINGARI (FR) 5 g 126 Corine Barande-Barbe
FR 114   ONE FOOT IN HEAVEN (IRE) 4 c 126 Alain de Royer Dupré
HK 112   FLAME HERO (NZ) 7 g 126 Peter Ho
NZ 110   BENZINI (AUS) 7 g 126 Adrian Bull
HK 110   EASTERN EXPRESS (IRE) 4 g 126 John Size
HK 108   ANTICIPATION (IRE) 5 g 126 Tony Cruz
JPN 115 * NUOVO RECORD (JPN) 5 m 122 Makoto Saito
JPN 109   SMART LAYER (JPN) 6 m 122 Ryuji Okubo
(14)
     *  International Group 1 winner