World horseracing’s year-end Group 1 extravaganza, the HK$83 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, will take place at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday 13 December and the four features have attracted 209 exciting nominations from 11 countries/jurisdictions.
Of those entries, 152 are overseas-trained horses against 57 from Hong Kong, and with 77 international G1 winners among them - seven more than last year - including the world’s top-rated turf miler Able Friend, European star Flintshire and Australia’s latest speed sensation Chautauqua, this year’s LONGINES HKIR is primed to live up to its billing as the Turf World Championships.
The four-race showcase features the world’s richest races on turf at 2000m, 1600m and 1200m - the HK$25 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (87 entries), the HK$23 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (77 entries) and the HK$18.5 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (56 entries) - along with the HK$16.5 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (75 entries), one of the world’s most rewarding mile and a half tests.
Star names at the initial stage also include the crack European racers Free Eagle (Cup and Vase), Esoterique (Mile), Make Believe (Mile), Sole Power (Sprint), Secret Gesture (Vase), Red Cadeaux (Vase) and Trip To Paris (Vase); from Down Under, the Kiwi superstar Mongolian Khan (Vase) alongside last year’s Hong Kong Cup third Criterion (Cup). Meanwhile, G1 Sprinters Stakes winner Straight Girl (Sprint) - entered to return after a fine third in the Sprint last year - Lovely Day (Cup), Real Impact (Mile), Maurice (Cup) and Kitasan Black (Cup) are among the biggest and best contingent of Japanese raiders ever nominated for the event; and from North America the Royal Ascot hero Undrafted (Sprint), as well as multiple G1-winning stayer Big Blue Kitten (Vase), and Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint victor Bobby’s Kitten (Sprint).
Able Friend heads the Hong Kong entry, which also features his stablemate Designs On Rome who is engaged to attempt a repeat win in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup. Other notable locals among the nominations are the 2013 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase winner Dominant, G1 APQEII Cup winner Blazing Speed (Cup & Vase), and two-time Singapore Airlines International Cup hero Dan Excel (Cup & Mile). A number of Hong Kong’s rising stars are also nominated, including Contentment (Mile), Beauty Only (Cup & Mile), Got Fly (Cup) and Blizzard (Sprint), as well as last season’s impressive Hong Kong Derby winner Luger (Mile).
Four of the top 10 horses in the latest edition of the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rakings are entered for Sha Tin’s biggest day of the year, with defending LONGINES Hong Kong Mile champ Able Friend ranked fourth. Designs On Rome is another from that elite echelon as is the French star Flintshire, last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Vase victor, and Ireland’s Free Eagle, winner of the G1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Japan has the largest bloc of overseas entries with 50 horses entered including this season’s classic winners Kitasan Black (Cup), winner of the G1 Kikuka Sho, and Let’s Go Donki (Mile), the G1 Oka Sho heroine.
France also has a pair of classic winners among its 19 nominees, the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains winner Make Believe, who stamped his class on a quality field last start in the G1 Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, and Vazirabad (Vase) who recently took the G1 Prix Royal-Oak. Also among the French nominees is the outstanding gelding Cirrus Des Aigles (Vase) who is already a veteran of five starts at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races and would be seeking a first win at age nine.
Australia’s latest sprinting hero Chautauqua is one of 26 overall entries from that country, with the easy G1 Manikato Stakes winner part of a strong band of Aussie speedsters eyeing the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint.
“With 77 individual G1 winners nominated for this year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races we have a real depth of quality that befits this world showcase occasion. Hong Kong racing’s poster event is firmly established as a year-end destination for the world’s leading horses and horsemen, and the class of these initial entries emphasises that fact. We are delighted to have matched the same overall number of nominations as at this stage last year but the most important thing is the quality of those nominees and we certainly have an abundance,” said Mr. William A. Nader, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing.
“The prize money increases we made last year strengthened the LONGINES HKIR’s already solid position as a world event and we are seeing the benefits of that strategic decision being manifest in the high class of horses we are attracting. It is particularly exciting to see such a large number of entries from Japan and an eye-catching bloc of Australasian entries, alongside the typically strong European entry and some high-class Americans. Horses of the calibre of Able Friend, Flintshire, Chautauqua, Esoterique, Mongolian Khan, Make Believe, Straight Girl, Free Eagle and Undrafted would be a big draw at any of the world’s great racing occasions, of which the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races is most certainly one.”
The week of festivities capped by the LONGINES HKIR begins on Wednesday, 9 December with the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley. Selected jockeys for the event will be announced soon.
LONGINES Hong Kong International Races – Sunday 13 December 2015 - Entries
LONGINES Hong Kong Cup
LONGINES Hong Kong Mile
LONGINES Hong Kong Vase
LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint