Hanson: Spot Plays for the 2021 Hong Kong International Races (HKIR)
The 10-race HKIR begins Saturday night at 11 p.m. ET.
The 2021 Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) at Sha Tin this weekend features four Group 1 stakes, but perhaps not too many pari-mutuel bombs if the form on paper pans out.
The local star of the show is Golden Sixty, who aims to defend his title in the third Group 1 on the card, the Hong Kong Mile. A death-and-taxes type with 18 wins from 19 starts, he's hard to oppose with great confidence.
Instead, we'll look at the other highlights on the program for our recommended plays.
Hong Kong Vase (G1) -- Race 4 (1 a.m. ET Sunday)
#2 GLORY VASE (3-1), who won this race in 2019 but skipped last year's HKIR in favor of a tilt at the Japan Cup (G1), is a six-year-old who's raced sporadically throughout his career. However, whenever he shows up, he tends to run.
Beaten less than a length by the mare Loves Only You in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) at Sha Tin in April, Glory Vase made his only appearance since in an 11-furlong Group 2 at Nakayama in late September. Third that day and typically stronger second off the layoff, he can re-claim this title here.
Hong Kong Sprint (G1) -- Race 5 (1:40 a.m. ET Sunday)
This race has never been won by a three-year-old, but #2 PIXIE KNIGHT (7-2) has solid claims on potentially being the first. The Japanese invader obviously has tremendous upside, given his age, and enters off a two-length win in the Sprinters S. (G1) over the right-handed Nakayama course.
In looks and movement, Pixie Knight is reminiscent of his sire, Maurice, a two-time winner at this fixture whose 2016 Hong Kong Cup victory is still the most dazzling display by a Thoroughbred that our eyes have had an opportunity to witness.
Hong Kong Cup (G1) -- Race 8 (3:30 a.m. ET Sunday)
Although connections are voicing concerns the ground might come up too firm, English invader #8 DUBAI HONOR (5-1) is getting good at the right time for trainer William Haggas.
A dual Group 2 winner in France prior to the Oct. 16 Champion S. (G1) at Ascot, the gelding outran all save fellow three-year-old Sealiway in that 10-furlong test, with such standouts as Mishriff and Adayar behind him. Granted, that race came at the end of a long season for the aforementioned rivals and on ground that might not have been suitable for either, but that piece of form still remains intriguing.