Hong Kong Diary

It has been a challenging road but HKIR day is finally here. The stars of Hong Kong racing will take on Group 1 winners from all over the world at Sha Tin this Sunday and all the action will be live on Sky Sports Racing.

  • Friday 06 December
  • Blog
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OLD GUARD FACE STERN CHALLENGES FOR HKIR 2019

Much has changed since Hong Kong horses recorded a historic clean sweep of all four HKIR races 12 months ago.

Exultant remains at the peak of his powers as he bids to go back to back in the Vase. Mr Stunning and Beauty Generation need to shrug off setbacks to become only the second or third three-time HKIR winners in the Sprint and Mile. And Glorious Forever hasn't looked the same horse since making every yard to win last year's Cup under Silvestre de Sousa.

Watch the 2019 Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Sunday 8th December from 3.45 am.

Around £9m is at stake in four Group 1 contests beginning at 5.40 GMT and the fact that Hong Kong punters tend to cling hard to local favourites could create some value for those prepared to look beyond the market leaders.

EXULTANT OUT WIDE AS HE BIDS TO GO BACK TO BACK

What price should last year's winner Exultant be for the Vase? He's lengths better than the other local stayers having defied a Group 1 penalty in the Jockey Club Cup and a horse who finds as much as he does once asked to stretch can never be opposed lightly.

Logic suggests Zac Purton's mount will be about 2.5 but plenty of Vase winners have been turned over at short odds the following year - including Highland Reel, Flintshire and Dunaden - and the combination of stall 14 and some very smart visitors makes things interesting.

British raiders Aspetar, Young Rascal, and Prince Of Arran all have something to recommend them, while Nassau heroine Deirdre is a hardened globetrotter who finished second in the Hong Kong Cup here last year.

MOREIRA A BIG BOOST AS VASE GOES FOR VASE GLORY

Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck is another strong contender wearing blinkers first time as he bids to emulate Ballydoyle's ultimate road warrior Highland Reel, but the one who might slip under the radar most is Japanese raider Glory Vase.

Watch the 2019 Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Sunday 8th December from 3.45 am.

This Deep Impact colt is only just behind the very best of these on international ratings based on his fine second, way clear of the rest, in the Tenno Sho back in April. 

He almost certainly needed the race on his sole run since in October but there will be no excuses on the score of fitness this time and the fact that Joao Moreira takes over for the first time is a significant added plus.

GENTLE GIANT AETHERO READY TO ASCEND TO SPRINTING THRONE

It will take just over 68 seconds to reveal whether Aethero is the crown prince of Hong Kong racing or simply a young pretender who isn't ready to ascend to the throne just yet.

This year's Sprint at 6.20 features most of the old guard - headed by dual winner Mr Stunning and current Champion Sprinter Beat The Clock - but Aethero is a formidably precocious three-year-old who has won five from six and lines up after galloping a high-class field bow legged in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint three weeks ago.

Zac Purton has been dieting hard to get down to 8st 5lb in order to take the ride and John Moore's gelding has the speed to get across from stall 10 and race right on the pace from the start.

Jockey Club Sprint runner-up Hot King Prawn will be with him, while the admirably consistent Beat The Clock is a precision timepiece who is bound to run another bold race under Moreira.

Watch the 2019 Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Sunday 8th December from 3.45 am.

But the feeling that there is room at the top for a new sprint king has been around for a while now. And Aethero, a gentle chestnut giant who is one of Hong Kong's heaviest horses at 1250lb, will be very hard to run down if things go his way in the early stages.

TWEAKS THE KEY TO BEAUTY G'S CHANCE OF A THIRD HK MILE

Purton reunites with the horse of his lifetime in the Hong Kong Mile at 6.55 and it will take no more than a couple of seconds at the top of the home straight for a big crowd to realise whether the fire still burns within Beauty Generation.

The world's highest rated miler was utterly dominant in this race last year but has been beaten on both his last two starts, including when finding way less than normal when third behind Waikuku and Ka Ying Star in the Jockey Club Mile three weeks ago.

John Moore feels he can "tweak things" to get his stable star back on track but Purton admits "the alarm bells are ringing."

All will be revealed when the Aussie asks his mount to let rip off the home turn. If the tweaks have worked, he wins. But age tends to catch up with Hong Kong's old champs eventually. And this year there is a new champ in town.....

OLD CHAMP COULD BE VULNERABLE TO INDY CHAMP

It's hard not to reflect on uncanny echoes of 2015 when assessing Indy Champ's chances of inflicting another defeat on Beauty Generation. 

The mind drifts back to 2015, when Japanese raider Maurice lined up with wins in the Yasuda Kinen and the Mile Championship before flooring Moore's fading star Able Friend in the Mile.

Indy Champ is in the Maurice role four years down the line. He may not be as good but he won those two races by combining a high cruising speed with a sharp turn of foot and those assets could be very important if Beauty Generation and Ka Ying Star combine to set a strong pace.

RISE LOOKS UP FOR THE CUP IF BACK ON SONG

Almond Eye's defection from the HK Cup at 8.10 leaves a gaping hold in the most valuable race of the day and most of the field have some sort of question to answer.

Japanese raider Win Bright smashed the track record over course and distance in April and would be very well served if the battling brothers Time Warp and Glorious Forever - winners of this race in 2017 and 2018 - go head to head from an early stage again.

Magic Wand is a typically hardy Galileo filly who has stood up to aggressive campaigning with admirable courage, but Rise High's defeat of Waikuku and Beauty Generation in the Sha Tin Trophy win over a mile looks among the best form on offer here and he looks as safe an option as any in a very trappy feature.

Hong Kong Diary
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