O'Brien looking to Magical for first Hong Kong Cup success

Star mare goes for gold at Sha Tin on Sunday.

  • Friday 11 December
  • News
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Magical bids to provide Aidan O’Brien with his first victory in Sunday’s Longines Hong Kong Cup.

The brilliant mare extended her Group One tally to seven when successfully defending her crown in the Irish Champion Stakes in September, subsequently finishing third in the Champion Stakes at Ascot and second to fellow Irish raider Tarnawa at the Breeders’ Cup.

Magical has travelled to the Far East for what could be her swansong before retirement, with her rider Ryan Moore hoping to secure a third Hong Kong Cup success following his previous triumphs aboard Snow Fairy (2010) and Maurice (2016).

O’Brien said: “Magical has travelled plenty and she likes travelling. Pat (Keating, travelling head lad) has been happy with her since she arrived there. Everything looks perfect at the moment.

“She’s a relaxed filly with a good mind and she’s raced all the way from seven furlongs to a mile and a half. She’s a mature adult now and she’s very easy to handle, very straightforward and very genuine.

“She’ll be very happy if there’s a good pace on – that would suit her. She likes to be at a high tempo to be seen at her best.”

Magical renews rivalry with French challenger Skalleti, who was one place and half a length ahead of her in the Champion Stakes.

Jerome Reynier’s stable star had previously beaten subsequent Arc hero Sottsass in a Group Three at Deauville, before winning the Prix Dollar for the second year in succession on Arc weekend.

“We beat Magical last time, but this might be more to her taste and we are here to see what we can do,” said Reynier.

“He is quite exceptional. It’s rare to have a horse that can win a Premio Roma and two Prix Dollars on heavy ground going right-handed, who can also win on the all-weather at left-handed Marseille-Vivaux and a Prix Quincey up a straight 1,600 metres at Deauville on good ground. He adapts to anything.

“I am quite confident and he’s a horse that never disappoints.”

O’Brien has enjoyed more success in the Hong Kong Vase, having saddled Highland Reel to win the race in both 2015 and 2017.

This year’s Ballydoyle representative is Mogul, who finished fifth behind the aforementioned Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last time.

“We always thought a lot more of him than he was showing in his runs until he won the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp. He’s a big, powerful horse and you would be hoping the plan is to keep him in training next year as well,” said O’Brien.

“The Grand Prix de Paris was a good race and it was the first time we really took the decision to drop out completely, take our time and ride him for pace. That’s what we did and it worked very well.”

Mogul’s opponents include Reynier’s Royal Julius and Hong Kong favourite Exultant, who won this race in 2018 and finished third last year.

Golden Sixty is the undoubted star attraction in the Hong Kong Mile, having extended his winning streak to 10 – and claimed his 13th win from 14 career starts overall – with a brilliant performance in the Jockey Club Mile three weeks ago.

Trainer Francis Lui said: “I’m confident on the horse but the overseas horses – their form is good.

“I’m very happy with his trackwork because he was quite relaxed – everything is ready.”

Jockey Vincent Ho added: “He’s a super horse. He’s got a great mentality – he just wants to chase whatever is in front of him in the straight.

“Every jockey dreams of a horse like this. When you’re on him, it’s just so special.”

Irish hopes are carried by O’Brien’s surprise Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Order Of Australia and Ken Condon’s stable star Romanised.

O’Brien said: “We always had it in our heads that Order Of Australia could be a miler, but he’s by Australia, so we started him as a Derby-type horse and he ran very well when fourth in the Irish Derby.

“We then went back to a mile and a quarter and he ran very well in a French Derby, so it was always possible we were going to back in distance, but it looked like we were going to run out of time.

“In the Breeders’ Cup, he looked like a horse you could shorten up a little bit more because he travelled strongly through the race and we were over the moon with the run.

“We’ve been happy with him since and we’re looking forward to seeing him running again.”

Romanised was a beaten odds-on favourite at Dundalk on his latest outing after blowing the start, but Condon is confident he can make his presence felt at Sha Tin.

He said: “If Billy (Lee) is where he wants to be, Romanised will be the last horse off the bridle. He’ll travel for you further than anything else. I can see him doing that and he might just enjoy it.

“I’m looking forward to it and the fire still burns in him, while he looks a picture for the time of the year.”

Of Golden Sixty, he added: “I’ve watched a few of his races and he can produce a quick quarter-mile when he needs to and go under 22 seconds – he’s got that ability.”

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