ALL EYES from the racing world will be firmly fixed on events happening at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on Sunday morning.
It’s the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR), featuring four Group One contests worth around £9million in prize money.
With some of the best horses and most popular jockeys from around the globe on show, this is truly a mouth-watering spectacle, and one that’s guaranteed to excite racing fans.
An early-morning alarm call is a must, with the first of the featured races starting at 5.40am and the highlight of the morning, the Hong Kong Cup, worth nearly £3m, due off at 8.10am.
Hong Kong swept the board last year, winning all four of the Group Ones, and all four winners: Exultant (HK Vase), Mr Stunning (HK Sprint), Beauty Generation (HK Mile) and Glorious Forever (HK Cup) are back to defend their crowns.
This is a big day for local reigning champion jockey Zac Purton, who rides three probable favourites, and also gets the leg up on last season’s Hong Kong Cup winner Glorious Forever.
The Aussie-born rider is never short on confidence, but even he will surely feel some pressure with the locals cheering him on aboard three of Hong Kong’s most popular horses.
Purton, who alongside jockey Gerald Mosse, holds the record of the most winners (eight) in the history of HKIR, will be hoping to surpass that record early on when he partners defending champion EXULTANT in the Hong Kong Vase (5.40am) over 1m4f.
The Tony Cruz-trained five-year-old warmed up for this event with an emphatic victory in the Group Two Jockey Club Cup over 1m2f last month.
Last year’s success was gained at the expense of top Japanese stayer and Cox Plate winner Lys Gracieux, with subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Waldgeist, back in fifth.
Epsom Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, rated by many to have been an unlucky loser in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, popular globe-trotting mare Deirdre, and recent Japanese Group One winner Lucky Lilac look the obvious threats.
John Moore’s potentially supersonic sprinter AETHERO is going to be a hot favourite with Purton aboard when racing at Group One level for the first time in the Hong Kong Sprint (6.20am) over six furlongs.
A winner of five of his six starts, the Australian-bred three-year-old is still on a learning curve but has unbelievable raw talent and could be a superstar.
He beat nine of his 13 HK Sprint rivals in scintillating fashion in the Group Two Jockey Club Sprint last month, and an outside draw will be to his benefit as he hates to get crowded during his races.
After an encouraging run behind Aethero following a long lay-off last month, Beat The Clock looks the principle threat, while anyone looking for an attractive long shot should pay attention to FULL OF BEAUTY.
This six-time winner faced a near impossible task from the outside draw in the Jockey Club Sprint but finished strongly to take fourth.
His closing sectional times over the last half mile were the fastest in the contest and this time he has drawn an all-important low number.
He is capable of making the frame at attractive odds.
Exultant 5.40am Sha Tin
Aethero 6.20am Sha Tin
Full of Beauty e/w 6.20am Sha Tin