International scene heats up this weekend

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

February 27th, 2016

International racing fans have a lot to look forward to this weekend. From Australia tonight, to England and Qatar Saturday, and on to Hong Kong and Japan early Sunday, there’s a feast of intriguing events, many with globetrotting ramifications going forward.

Here’s a whirlwind tour:

Late Friday night in Australia, superstar filly Winx puts her winning streak on the line in the Chipping Norton (G1) at Randwick, which has also attracted comebacker Mongolian Khan, new European import Storm the Stars, Dibayani, Hartnell, and Magic Hurricane, among others.

Caulfield hosts a trio of Group 1s. The about seven-furlong Futurity (G1) features Turn Me Loose, who promises to improve off his fourth in the CF Orr (G1) to the re-opposing Suavito, while Scissor Kick could outperform his odds in his return. Juveniles line up in the Blue Diamond (G1), where Extreme Choice and Flying Artie must overcome their outside posts, and Concealer may offer some value off a tough-trip second in her latest. Speedsters compete in the about 5 1/2-furlong Oakleigh Plate (G1), with 3-year-olds Heatherly and Keen Array likely to perform well.

Saturday, Qatar stages a banner card that has lured several English shippers. Agent Murphy can get back on track in the Emir’s Trophy, while European classic hopeful Tony Curtis contests the Al Biddah Mile, and Rivellino brings his sharp all-weather form into the Katara Sprint Cup.

In England, Saturday's Winter Derby (G3) at Lingfield could yield a World Cup night contender in John Gosden’s South American import Furia Cruzada, who tackles synthetic specialists Grendisar and Festive Fare.

On Sunday in Japan, champion Duramente returns to action in a loaded renewal of the Nakayama Kinen (G2), his stepping stone to the Dubai Sheema Classic (G1). Australia-bound Isla Bonita and Logotype, and Dubai prospects Real Steel and Last Impact, are also in the line-up.

Sunday’s Hong Kong Gold Cup (G1) pits defending champion Designs on Rome, who reunites with jockey Tommy Berry for the first time in a couple of years, against Tony Cruz’s stalwart Blazing Speed, 2013-14 titleholder Military Attack, the in-form but distance-climbing Giant Treasure, and up-and-coming Secret Weapon.

The Gold Cup may have an international impact. Military Attack is under consideration for an Australian venture. Dan Excel has lost his form on turf, but he’s received an invitation to the Godolphin Mile (G2) on dirt, and connections sound inclined to take it up with a reasonable showing here. Giant Treasure, however, is unlikely to advance to Dubai in an apparent change of plan.

Also at Sha Tin, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (G1) lost a key player in Thewizardofoz, who’s been scratched with swelling in his right front leg and a temperature.

“With a temperature you can’t do much but see how the horse comes through it,” trainer John Size told Alan Aitken of the South China Morning Post. “So I’ll do that and, once I’m happy that he’s over it, he can train again and then we’ll look at the program and see what there is for him.”

But the field is still talent-rich, led by Gold-Fun, the 2014 winner who was third to Able Friend in last year’s running; Beauty Only, whom trainer Tony Cruz plans to send to Tokyo for the prestigious Yasuda Kinen (G1) June 5; and Contentment.

What a great way to conclude February and gear up for a super March, highlighted by the increasing Group 1 tempo in Australia and the crescendo of Dubai.