Anthony Van Dyck will break new ground at Sha Tin on Sunday when he becomes the first ever winner of the Investec Derby to compete at the Longines Hong Kong International Races.
It is just over six months since the Galileo colt provided his trainer Aidan O’Brien with a joint-record seventh victory in the premier Classic at Epsom.
Anthony Van Dyck has failed to add to his tally in four subsequent outings, but has run well in defeat to be placed in the Irish Derby, the Irish Champion Stakes and, most recently, the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
He will be fitted with blinkers for the first time for the Longines Hong Kong Vase – a race O’Brien won twice with the globetrotting Highland Reel, in 2015 and 2017.
“He’s a horse we always thought very highly of, and he’s run some unbelievable races through the whole year,” said the Ballydoyle handler.
“The only disappointing run was in the King George on bad ground. He’s a lovely moving horse and we always thought he loved fast ground.
“Obviously he was a little bit unlucky in the Breeders’ Cup, but we were still very happy with the performance.
“It would be unbelievable (to win). Obviously it would be very important, very prestigious for the horse really, were we fortunate enough for it to happen.”
O’Brien has a second string to his bow in the Vase in Mount Everest, who was little over a length behind Anthony Van Dyck when sixth at the Breeders’ Cup on his latest appearance.
“He had a small setback early on and we couldn’t get him out until later on in the season,” the trainer added.
“But he has progressed with every run – we were delighted with the run the last day in America. We’re looking forward to seeing him run.”
The Willie Mullins-trained True Self is a third Irish-trained runner in the Vase, while there is also a strong challenge from Britain, with Charlie Fellowes’ Melbourne Cup runner-up Prince Of Arran joined by William Haggas’ Young Rascal and Roger Charlton’s Aspetar.
Fellowes said: “All has gone really well since he arrived in Hong Kong. He worked earlier this week and the sectionals were very good, so we’re looking forward to it.
“We’ve got a much better draw than we did at Flemington, which is a positive, but it is a very strong race.
“You’ve got a Derby winner in there, last year’s winner (Exultant), Deirdre and numerous other Group One winners.
“It’s a tough race, but we know Prince Of Arran is a different horse in these conditions, so we’re hoping for a good run.”
Yong Rascal faces a significant step up in class, having run out an impressive winner of last month’s Floodlit Stakes at Kempton on his first start since being gelded. Frankie Dettori takes the ride for the first time this weekend.
Haggas said: “The idea was to campaign him in the autumn in the smarter races in September, so he’s been a bit slower than we thought, but the Hong Kong race fits nicely and now they have put a race on in Saudi Arabia and there’s Dubai – there are lots of options for him.
“Obviously he’s gelded now, so his value is different. You have to have a fresh horse for a race like this, I hope anyway, and he’ll certainly be that.”
Aspetar is out to double his Group One tally after enjoying top-level success in Germany in September.
“I’m pleased with what I’ve seen and travelling doesn’t seem to bother him. He’s a bit keen and he’s sure to be on his toes when you see him in the paddock on Sunday. Let’s hope he can get some cover in the race,” said Charlton.
Sir Michael Stoute’s Zaaki carries British hopes in the Mile, but all eyes will be on the John Moore-trained Beauty Generation, who bids to claim the prize for the third year in succession.
Ed Dunlop’s brilliant mare Snow Fairy was the last European-trained winner of the Hong Kong Cup in 2010. Aiming to stop the rot this year are Alain de Royer-Dupre’s Edisa and O’Brien’s Magic Wand.
The latter belatedly broke her Group One duck in the Mackinnnon Stakes at Flemington in Australia last month.
“She’s an incredible filly, obviously,” O’Brien said.
“She goes all around the world – she went from America, back to Ireland, even Australia not so long ago. What she has done is incredible.
“It’ll be a tough, hard race – very tough to win, but we’re looking forward to it. She loves fast ground, she’s very genuine and we’re very happy with her.”