Flintshire, Mongolian Saturday among Hong Kong invitees

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TwinSpires Staff

November 25th, 2015

Edited Press Release

The Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on December 13 have attracted a stellar line-up of Group 1 stars. A total of 33 international Grade/Group 1 winners are among the 56 entries selected for the world's great end-of-year Group 1 extravaganza.

The contenders include returning Hong Kong Vase (G1) champion Flintshire, Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1) victor Mongolian Saturday from the U.S., Japan's outstanding miler Maurice, the brilliant French mare Esoterique, Australia's top-class galloper Criterion and Ireland's crack middle-distance runner Free Eagle.

The Hong Kong International Races comprises the Hong Kong Cup (G1) over 2000 meters, the Hong Kong Mile (G1), the Hong Kong Sprint (G1) over 1200 meters and the Hong Kong Vase over 2400 meters. This year's selected runners -- 33 overseas raiders and 23 Hong Kong-trained -- are from eight countries/jurisdictions, spread across four continents.

For Hong Kong, last year's Hong Kong Mile winner Able Friend is selected to attempt a repeat win, as is Designs On Rome, who battled to victory in the 2014 edition of the Hong Kong Cup.

Able Friend is slated to face Maurice, unbeaten in five starts this year, with notable wins in the Yasuda Kinen (G1) and Mile Championship (G1). Adding further allure to the Mile line-up is the Andre Fabre-trained Esoterique, second to Europe's champion miler Solow in the Queen Anne (G1) at Royal Ascot in June, in which Able Friend finished a below-par sixth. Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) runner-up Mondialiste and Godolphin's Group 1 winner Toormore, fourth in the Queen Anne, are selected to represent Britain.

In the Hong Kong Cup, trainer Dermot Weld's Prince of Wales's (G1) hero Free Eagle is engaged to challenge for the spoils. Also aiming for the race are the Australian stars Criterion -- a four-time Group 1 winner and third in the Melbourne Cup (G1) last start -- and the top-class mare, Lucia Valentina. Japan's contingent includes the 2014 Japanese Oaks heroine Nuovo Record, and Staphanos, runner-up at the course and distance in the QEII Cup (G1) in April, and second last start in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) (G1).

Mongolian Saturday will attempt to add the Hong Kong Sprint to his recent Breeders' Cup triumph and the gelding is set to renew rivalry with fellow U.S. raider Green Mask, third in that Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Japan's Straight Girl was a brave third in this race last year and has since landed a pair of Group 1s, latterly the Sprinters S. in early October. The tough mare heads a strong Japanese trio that also features Sakura Gospel and Mikki Isle. Five-time Group 1 winner Sole Power, for Ireland, is also slated to take on a home team that is set to include last year's runner-up Peniaphobia and potential favorite Gold-Fun.

Flintshire is selected to once again bring outstanding form to the Hong Kong Vase, having placed second last start behind Golden Horn in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1). The race also features fellow French stars Cirrus des Aigles and Erupt, as well as the progressive Dariyan, whose dam, Daryakana won this race in 2009. Meanwhile, Ireland's champion trainer, Aidan O'Brien, is set to send the globe-trotting three-year-old Highland Reel, successful in the Secretariat (G1) in the U.S. this term and third in Australia's Cox Plate (G1) last time.

(NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)