Hong Kong Cup win would be sweet for Werther

Profile Picture: Alastair Bull

December 7th, 2017

Hong Kong racing fans will be hoping their outstanding horse Werther can see off a strong international challenge in the $3.2 million Hong Kong International Cup at Sha Tin Dec. 10.

The New Zealand-bred by Tavistock won at group two level in Australia and New Zealand and had two group one second-place finishes before being bought by Johnson Chen in 2015, and he’s been outstanding since his arrival.

Winner of the 1 ¼-mile Hong Kong Derby in 2016, he thrashed a good international field in the 1 ¼-mile Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1) shortly afterwards and earned Horse of the Year honors.

Injury forced him out of last year’s Hong Kong International Cup, but since his return he’s won the 1 ¼-mile Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1), the 1 ½-mile Champions and Chater Cup (G1), and last month’s Jockey Club Cup (G2).

The only major 1 ¼-mile Hong Kong race missing on the $5.8 million earner’s resume is the Hong Kong International Cup, and he’s in the right form to run a big race.

The biggest local challenger to Werther is probably Time Warp, who finished second to Werther in the Jockey Club Cup. The other local runner, Secret Weapon, would surprise if he won.

Japan has won the last two editions of this race with A Shin Hakari and Maurice, and aiming to make it three on end for the Japanese are Neorealism, Staphanos, and Smart Layer. Neorealism, who beat Werther in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup this year, is probably the best of them.

Staphanos finished third in this race last year and finished second to Kitasan Black in the Osaka Hai (G1) earlier this year, while Smart Layer won the Kyoto 1 ½-mile Daishoten (G2) two starts back.

Aidan O’Brien brings two horses from Ireland. The best-performed is last year’s Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) winner Deauville, who has finished in the top three this year in the Tattersalls Gold Cup (G1), Queen Anne Stakes (G1), and Arlington Million (G1). His other runner is War Decree, last seen finishing ninth of 11 behind Gun Runner in the Breeders’ Cup Classic; earlier this year he finished fifth in the Prix du Jockey Club (G1, French Derby).

The best-performed of the Europeans is probably Poet’s Word. He won the Glorious Stakes (G3) at Goodwood in August before two top-level performances at 1 ¼ miles: runner-up to Decorated Knight in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1), and filling the same position behind Cracksman in the British Champion Stakes (G1).

The other European runners are La Coupe (G3) winner Robin of Navan, Prix Dollar (G2) victor Garlingari, and E P Taylor Stakes (G1) winner Blond Me.

Much will depend on pace and luck in this race, but Werther will have everything in his favor as he tries to add the Hong Kong Cup to his trophy list. Poet’s Word, Neorealism, Deauville, and Time Warp look the best of the others.