O'Brien faces strong local challenge in Hong Kong Mile

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December 7th, 2017

Aidan O’Brien brings two genuine group one horses to Sha Tin for the $2.95 million Hong Kong International Mile (G1), but he’s got history and a strong local team against him Dec. 10.

O’Brien will start Lancaster Bomber and Roly Poly in the race, both having last raced in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) Nov. 4. Lancaster Bomber ran a solid race for second behind World Approval, while Roly Poly got too far back and finished 11th of 14.

Lancaster Bomber has won just once in 14 starts but he has been very consistent, especially on firm tracks. He has five second-place finishes in group/grade one races, and should run well again.

Roly Poly’s Breeders’ Cup Mile effort was well below her best; prior to that, she won three group one races, including a triumph over subsequent Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) winner Wuheida. The more spacious Hong Kong track should be more suitable.

However, history suggests the locally-trained horses are the ones to beat here. Since 2002, only three horses trained outside Hong Kong have won – Godolphin’s Firebreak (2004) and the Japanese pair Hat Trick (2005) and Maurice (2015).

The race was won last year by Beauty Only from Helene Paragon, and both return this year. They both put in good efforts in their final lead-up, the Jockey Club Mile (G2), finishing fourth and second, respectively, and can be expected to run well.

The favorite may well Seasons Bloom, who looked very good when winning the Jockey Club Mile. The other leading Hong Kong runners are Beauty Generation, third in the Jockey Club Mile, and Contentment, winner earlier this year of the Hong Kong Champions Mile (G1).

Victories for the other Hong Kong contenders – Joyful Trinity, Horse of Fortune, Sichuan Dar, and Western Express – would be a surprise.

If there is to be another Japanese victory it will have to come from Satono Aladdin. He won the Yasuda Kinen (G1) earlier this year but failed in both the Tenno Sho (Autumn) and the Mile Championship (G1) at his most recent outings. He finished seventh in this race last year.

There are two runners from Europe besides O’Brien’s pair: France’s Karar, twice placed in the seven-furlong Prix de la Foret (G1) and not far away when seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Mile; and Britain’s Lightning Spear, winner of the Celebration Mile (G2) and placed in both the Lockinge Stakes (G1) and the Sussex Stakes (G1) this year.

It’s hard to go past the Hong Kong runners here. Seasons Bloom and Beauty Generation both have good barrier draws, but Helene Paragon could win if he gets some luck from barrier two. Lancaster Bomber is probably the best prospect among the raiders.