Hong Kong: International Day prep races, Happy Valley preview

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November 22nd, 2022

Hong Kong’s International races on Dec. 11 are understandably a magnet for the world’s best turf horses.

Three of the four races — the $4.3 million Cup (about 1 1/4 miles), the $3.8 million Mile (about one mile), and the $3.1 million Sprint (about six furlongs) are the richest Group/Grade 1 turf races in the world at their distances. Only the $2.8 million Vase (about 1 1/2 miles) is not, but it’s still easily in the top 10.

But despite the international appeal, it’s been difficult to take the bulk of the purse out of Asia. No horse trained outside Hong Kong or Japan has won the Sprint or the Cup since 2010, or the Mile since 2004. Only the Vase has proved a happy hunting ground for those outside Asia; since its 1994 inception, just three Hong Kong horses and four Japanese horses have won — though, between them they’ve taken five of the last nine renewals.

So you need to look at racing in Hong Kong and Japan when deciding how to play the Hong Kong International races, and last Sunday there were three meaningful preps in Hong Kong and possibly one in Japan.

Let’s have a look at some of the important points from these races.

  • Lucky Sweynesse isn’t a one-dimensional hope for the Sprint: Trained by Manfred Man, Lucky Sweynesse is best known as a frontrunner, but in Sunday’s Jockey Club Sprint (G2) he was taken three horses back from his wide draw and rallied to win for top jockey Zac Purton. Favorite Wellington was disappointing; he might be best when not rushed early, but his only other poor form in Hong Kong unfortunately came at this time last year.
  • Romantic Warrior is the best local hope for the Cup: the 2022 Hong Kong Derby winner has been beaten just once in nine Hong Kong starts, and had no problem handling 1 1/4 miles in the Jockey Club Cup (G2), his first run this campaign. It’s hard to see any of the locals beating him in the Cup; his toughest opponents are likely to come from Japan and Europe.
  • Golden Sixty is still the benchmark for Hong Kong racing. He showed he’s in good shape for a third consecutive Mile victory, overcoming a five-pound weight penalty and conceding the high-quality frontrunner California Spangle five lengths in a slowly-run race to win the Jockey Club Mile (G2). The first two, and Golden Sixty in particular, will be tough to roll in the Mile.
  • The Japanese contenders that contested Sunday’s Mile Championship (G1) probably need to improve to beat Golden Sixty. Eleven of the 17 Mile Championship runners hold an early entry to the Hong Kong Mile, but the field was slightly underwhelming. Nonetheless, race winner Serifos is clearly on the improve and looked good in coming from well back to win. Favorite Schnell Meister was a little disappointing in fifth.

In the coming weeks, TwinSpires Edge will look more at some of the foreign contenders, as well as the local trainers and riders to watch.

Happy Valley Preview: Nov. 23, 2022

Race 8 Wagers

  • $10 win/$30 show: #4 Zone D ($40)
  • $1.30 trifecta: 3, 4 with 3, 4, 9 with 3, 4, 7, 9, 10 ($15.60)

Midweek racing continues at Happy Valley on Wednesday, and #4 Zone D looks a great chance to win the Class 3 Kwun Tong Handicap over 1,650 meters (about 1 mile, 40 yards).

Zone D put in a great performance at his last start Oct. 30, coming from well off the pace off a wide draw to finish second to #2 Red Majesty after making a tough mid-race move.

This time he’s drawn barrier five, and if Zac Purton can get a nice position a bit closer to the pace, he looks a very good hope.

One to watch might be #3 Dynamic Spirit. A dual Grade 1 winner in Brazil last year when known as Orfeu Negro, he made up many lengths to finish fourth over six furlongs at his last start and should appreciate the step up in trip.

#9 Storm Legend continues to run good races, while Red Majesty can bounce back after having a tough run at his last start. Last-start winners #8 Jade Phoenix and #10 Exceptional Nice also need to be respected.