Aidan O’Brien’s Magical could finish only third as Normcore claimed top honours in the Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin.
Magical looked set for retirement after rounding off her 2019 campaign with victory in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.
However, she was brought back as five-year-old this season and it has proved a wise decision, with the daughter of Galileo claiming another three Group One wins to extend her top-level tally to seven.
Since successfully defending her crown in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September, Magical had finished third in the Champion Stakes at Ascot and second to Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
She was well fancied to provide O’Brien with a first Hong Kong Cup success, but was under pressure before the home turn under Ryan Moore – and while she boxed on tenaciously in the straight, she had to make do with minor honours.
Normcore, trained by Kiyoshi Hagiwara and ridden by Zac Purton, delivered his challenge wide and finished best to win with by three-quarters of a length and with a little in hand.
Magical was only narrowly denied the runner-up spot by last year’s winner Win Bright.
“She ran a stormer,” O’Brien told Sky Sports Racing.
“She had a tough race in Ascot in bad ground and we backed her up in Keeneland, again on slowish ground. Doing something like that can maybe take a little bit of the edge off.
“She ran very well today and ran home very well, but she was a little bit lacklustre from the gates and in the first half of the race.
“We saw how genuine she is – she’s an unbelievable filly really”
Asked whether Magical would now be retired, O’Brien added: “The lads (owners) will chat between themselves what they want to do for a week or 10 days after the race. Then they’ll talk to us and decide.
“She looks great after the race and seems to have pulled up sound. I suppose we’ll take her home and see what the lads want to do.
“She would be some mare to have for next year. If she comes home well and everything is well, we’d love to have her (in training next year), but it will be the lads’ decision.”