By Nicholas Godfrey
Globetrotting Japanese mare Deirdre will continue her world tour in Hong Kong next month under champion jockey Oisin Murphy – but she will avoid a clash with superstar compatriot Almond Eye by running in the Hong Kong Vase rather than the Cup.
The popular five-year-old, who recorded a memorable Group One success at Goodwood in the summer, will step up to 2,400 metres (12 furlongs) for her second visit to the Longines Hong Kong International Races on December 8.
Deirdre’s travels may not be finished there, either, as connections are eyeing a visit to Saudi Arabia for the new Saudi Cup meeting, featuring what will be the world’s richest race, before her third visit to Dubai and a return to Newmarket for a second summer campaign in Europe.
Murphy, currently stationed in Japan for his second winter stint, partnered the daughter of Harbinger to win the Nassau Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, where she became the first Japanese-trained horse to win in Britain since Agnes World landed the July Cup in 2000.
Murphy will maintain his association with the powerful mare at Sha Tin, where she charged home late in typical fashion to be runner-up to Glorious Forever in last year’s Hong Kong Cup.
Instead of that HK$28 million (£2.77m) highlight, she is try her luck in the Vase, which is worth a total of HK$20m (£1.98m).
“I think she’ll stay a mile and half no problem,” said Murphy.
“Japanese horses race on rock-hard ground a lot of the time and everyone knew she didn’t have her favourite ground both times she ran at Ascot.
“If she reproduces her British and Irish form, she goes to Hong Kong with a live chance.”
Explaining the decision to step back up in trip for the Vase, veteran trainer Mitsuru Hashida said: “Deirdre has run twice in Hong Kong for 2,000-metre races in the past and it has not been easy for us, and we think one of the reasons for that is the short distance to the first bend.
“Therefore, we decided to aim for the Hong Kong Vase this time.
“That could make the positioning during the race easier for her by having a longer run before the first bend. The faster ground will suit her as well.”
Deirdre has been a flagbearer for Japan on the world stage, finishing fourth to Almond Eye in the Dubai Turf at Meydan in March before going back to Sha Tin, where she stayed on to be sixth in the QEII Cup in April over 10 furlongs.
Rather than pack up and go home, her connections rolled the dice and took her to Britain, where she spent the remainder of the season housed at Jane Chapple-Hyam’s Abington Place Stables in Newmarket.
With soft ground against her, Deirdre could finish only sixth at Royal Ascot under Japanese legend Yutaka Take. With Murphy taking over, she relished faster conditions to cut down her rivals for her ground-breaking Goodwood victory, after which she went on to post a pair of solid in-the-frame efforts in both the Irish and Ascot Champion Stakes.
“Our team have enjoyed it so much,” said Hashida.
“Goodwood was the highlight, but every race has been something special. We have unforgettable memories and it’s been a life-changing experience for everyone on the team. We all love British racing so much.”
Further travels are on the agenda for 2020, starting with Riyadh in February, where she could be switched to dirt for the inaugural running of the $20 million Saudi Cup or stay on turf for a contest on the lucrative undercard.
“Saudi is one of the options and we have plans to race in the UK again, so we’re planning to come back to Newmarket,” said Hashida.
“Saudi, Dubai, the UK, Ireland, France or the United States are all possible – and we’ll be looking at 2,400 metres as well.”