SERIOUS horse racing bettors and enthusiasts need to set their alarms early on Sunday morning for the televised LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.
The end-of-year world turf championships kick off at 6am at Sha Tin and feature four Group One contests, with unbelievable prize-money totalling over £9million.
With an abundance of European raiders in the line-ups, there will be plenty of interest for UK racing fans.
Three of last year’s winners – Mr Stunning, Beauty Generation and Time Warp – will be seeking to defend their crowns, but with last year’s Hong Kong Vase winner Highland Reel now retired, there will be at least one new name in the history books.
This is the one race in which European contenders have carried all before them in previous years, having won 20 of the previous 24 editions of the 1m4f contest.
They are once again strongly represented by the likes of Waldgeist, fourth behind Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and Salouen who nearly caused an upset when behind Cracksman in the Coronation Cup.
Mirage Dancer, Irish Derby winner Latrobe, Prince of Arran, and progressive Irish challenger Eziyra will also mix it among the challengers.
The Hong Kong home defence is headed by recent winner Eagle Way, strong stayer Exultant, and the unpredictable but hugely-talented Pakistan Star, with William Buick in the saddle.
Japan is represented by two strong contenders in LYS GRACIEUX and Crocosmia, who finished first and second in the highly-competitive Group One QEII over 1m2f furlongs in Kyoto last month.
Lys Gracieux was only rated a miler before she showed a blistering turn of acceleration from the back of the field in Kyoto, and her jockey ‘Magic Man’ Joao Moreira is adamant she is a high-class stayer.
She could prove a bit of value against the European horses, especially with Moreira in the saddle.
Latrobe, who recently finished second in the Mackinnon Stakes in Australia, and Mirage Dancer rate the biggest dangers.
The spotlight will be on reigning Hong Kong Mile champion Beauty Generation (7.50am), when he seeks to become the first horse to successfully defend his crown since Good Ba ten years ago.
The world’s highest-rated turf miler has blown away his rivals with three impressive victories already in HK this season, although his latest course and distance win did come after a heart stopping moment when he veered across the track in the latter stages of the race. However, he still won by three lengths.
Rumour has it he does suffer from intermittent foot problems, and he wouldn’t want any rain which is forecast over the weekend. The form book says he is well clear of his rivals, but at such skinny odds it could be worth looking for better value.
To which end, take a chance with the Ryan Moore-ridden ONE MASTER who looks a highly progressive filly, following her win in the Group One Prix de la Foret at Longchamp and close-up fifth behind Expert Eye in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. At double figure odds, she makes plenty of appeal.
Lys Gracieux (e/w) 6.00am Sha Tin
One Master (e/w) 7.50am Sha Tin