Tag Archive for: Hong Kong Cup

Haggas eyeing more air miles for Dubai Honour

Dubai Honour has opened the door to a wealth of international options with trainer William Haggas suggesting the ‘world is his oyster’ after finishing a close-up fourth against older rivals in the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin.

Fourth in the Britannia Handicap off a mark of 91 at Royal Ascot in June, the rapidly-improving gelding won a pair of valuable French Group Two events before finishing runner-up in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on his previous outing.

The Mohamed Obaida-owned four-year-old backed that up when finishing a length and a half behind Loves Only You in the valuable 10-furlong Group One event in Hong Kong on Sunday.

Having been held up, Tom Marquand’s mount was short of room approaching the final furlong, but when eventually finding a gap, he finished off his race nicely and answered a few questions for his Newmarket handler.

Haggas said: “He ran a good race – a very good race. He seemed fine afterwards. I saw him trot up this morning (Monday) and we are very happy with him so far.

“So, I think the world is his oyster, really, and he he has shown he can go on quicker ground, which is important for international races. It means if it rains he can cope with it and if it doesn’t he can also cope with it.”

With the likes of stablemate Addeybb plundering the Group One Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick in Australia earlier this year, Haggas is no stranger to top-level success abroad, where prize money is often significantly higher.

And Haggas may well be tempted to plot an overseas campaign for the son of Pride Of Dubai, who could follow a similar path trodden by Addeybb, currently recovering following an infected blood clot in a hock.

“I haven’t got a clue where we go next, really, but there are so many options,” admitted the trainer.

“We have got to decide whether we campaign him in England or whether to campaign him internationally – and that brings in all sorts of races, including the Dubai Sheema Classic.

“It is possible we could go back to Hong Kong in April for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

“The big races in Hong Kong are pretty valuable and it is important with him, because he is gelded, and there is no residual value, so he has got to chase the money.

“I am delighted with the way he ran and performed and the way he took it, so it is exciting going forward.”

Addeybb suffered a blood clot on his hock that became infected
Addeybb suffered a blood clot on his hock that became infected (Mike Egerton/PA)

Haggas also had positive news about Addeybb, who beat subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant in landing the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the last of three Group One victories in Australia, before two domestic appearances this season.

The son of Pivotal finished sixth in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October, but was subsequently found to be lame.

However, Haggas says the seven-year-old gelding is over the worst.

“He is going okay,” said the trainer. “I think we will turn him out shortly if he is okay.

“He will need a month off and there are absolutely no targets for him yet.”

Monday Musings: Overseas Despatches

Time was when a post-season challenge for the international races at Sha Tin racecourse was a fairly commonplace objective for high-class horses still in good heart, writes Tony Stafford. Four contests, each worth in excess of £1 million to the winner, were attraction enough. In the world of post- and apparently still-present Covid, things have changed.

Seven European-trained horses set off for Hong Kong at the end of their European seasons. None of the one French, two British and four Irish took back a victory from yesterday’s challenges, but such is the generosity of the prize pool, four will return with six-figure hauls.

Transportation difficulties have been a major adjunct to Covid times in all spheres with regulations for horse travel being especially onerous. That Willie Muir and joint-trainer Chris Grassick would have the foresight to send the partnership-owned Pyledriver for the Hong Kong Vase took courage and determination to see the project through.

Pyledriver didn’t manage to win, but in finishing a length second under Muir’s son-in-law Martin Dwyer to odds-on Japanese-trained favourite Glory Vase – it truly was a glory Vase for the winner! -  the Lambourn-trained runner matched anything he had ever previously achieved.

The second-favourite at 7-2, he lived up to that status, seeing off French-trained Ebaiyra to the tune of two-and-a-half lengths with Aidan O’Brien’s Mogul only sixth. In collecting £415,486 he easily eclipsed all the prizes he’d earned in his twelve previous starts, with five wins from his three seasons’ racing.

The equal youngest, at age four, with the other two Europeans, Pyledriver, who is still a colt – the winner is also an entire – must have more big pay-days ahead of him. Many plaudits, as well as Hong Kong dollars and other international currencies, can come the way of his entrepreneurial connections.

Only Mother Earth ran for European teams in the Mile and the hard-working 1000 Guineas heroine, coming on after Del Mar and the Breeders’ Cup, picked up fourth. That was worth £139k, supplementing Mogul's £37k for sixth in Pyledriver’s race. Ebaiyra picked up £188k for third there.

The Irish duo in the Hong Kong Cup, over 10 furlongs and the most valuable of the four races at £1.6 million to the winner, were unplaced, Bolshoi Ballet only ninth for O’Brien and Jim Bolger’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney last of 12.

William Haggas, the only other UK trainer represented, did better, his Dubai Honour picking up £161k for his close fourth behind Japanese mare Loves Only You who was adding to her Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf win last month at Del Mar. Dubai Honour, under Tom Marquand, was running at least on a par to his second behind Sealiway in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last month.

I would imagine that Haggas and his horse’ s owner Mohamed Obaida will have pricked up their ears that Sealiway’s trainer Cedric Rossi, as well as Cedric’s father Charlie, who was Sealiway’s previous handler, and other members of the family have been arrested in Marseille in relation to enquiries into allegations of doping. Who knows, there could be some ramifications to come and maybe even a Group 1 disqualification in favour of Dubai Honour.

Back home in the UK, jumping continues apace but this past weekend must be possibly one of the least informative in relation to the Holy Grail of unearthing Cheltenham Festival winners. Indeed the two days of Cheltenham’s December fixture were more notable first for the astonishing level of demand for National Hunt stock at the Friday night sale at the track, and then for Bryony Frost’s absence from the meeting, than anything happening on the course itself.

True, My Drogo restored what in reality had been only a minor blemish on his record when smoothly erasing the memory of his earlier course fall to re-emphasise his candidature for the Festival, much to the relief of the Skeltons. Otherwise it was ordinary enough.

Bryony, cheered by the crowd at Warwick on Thursday upon the news of Robbie Dunne’s 18-month suspension with all four charges of bullying proven, was despatched by boss Paul Nicholls to Doncaster over the weekend where she had an anti-climactic two winner-free days.

I have been canvassing some trainer friends around the country and they have all noticed over the years instances of inappropriate behaviour by jockeys to female riders at different times. It may have been thought acceptable in the days when girls were far less commonplace in stable yards and on racecourses, but those days are long gone.

Now they are ever more prominent and respected thanks to the exploits of Hayley Turner, Josephine Gordon, Hollie Doyle and Nicola Currie on the Flat and in the UK Bryony and the Andrews sisters, Gina and Bridget, over jumps. In Ireland, Rachael Blackmore has picked up the baton relinquished by Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh and carried their achievements to unprecedented and unimagined heights.

In these days of improved nutrition and the resultant increasing in the size of successive generations more women, with their natural lighter weights have been needed to offset the scarcity of smaller male riders, especially for Flat racing. Some yards like Sir Mark Prescott’s would have to pack up – although his stable is a case of choice rather than necessity.

In those far-off days of Sir Gordon Richards and his generation, girl riders never got a look in and nor were they to be found too often in stables, despite their success at the top level in show jumping and eventing. Historic examples abound like Charlie Gordon-Watson’s sister, Mary, and Marion Mould, not to mention Princess Anne and daughter Zara Tindall.

In many other sporting spheres – football, cricket and rugby in the UK are the most obvious in terms of professionalism –women have become much more prominent and women’s golf has long been at the forefront of international sport at the highest level. Nowadays racing could not survive without its female participants.

***

Yesterday when I heard the words “Tornado” and “Kentucky” in the same breath I confess I was instantly confronted by an image of flattened barns, devastated meadows - possibly already under snow as is often the case in much of Kentucky through the heart of winter - with animals helplessly strewn far and wide.

Kentucky to me is first Lexington and its stud farms - an area I’d visited so many times between the early 1980’s and 15 years ago. Second is Louisville, birthplace of Mohammed Ali and home of the Kentucky Derby. I’ve been there a few times, too.

The tornado which on Saturday came in at 220 m.p.h. and flattened a candle factory in Mayfield, trapping it was thought more than 100 workers – 40 apparently managed to get out – was centred near the western border of the south-eastern state. Lexington is way across to the east and 75 miles due south of Cincinnati on the borders of Ohio.

That south-western part of Kentucky is apparently tornado country, a manifestation that occurs when cold dry air meets warm moist air. The cold air is denser so it settles on top of the warm air and forces it to the ground where the tornado is formed.

While the terrible loss of life and devastation to people and their property is tragic in the extreme my initial dread I confess did concern the horses. I feared the tornado could have reached considerably further east – Mayfield is 265 miles south-west of Lexington – but that it seems was unfounded. These occur regularly in the region near Mayfield, though never previously with this intensity or effect.

Declared the biggest tragedy in the history of Kentucky by Democrat Governor Andy Beshear, a 44- year-old lawyer who won the state’s top job by 0.2%, you could imagine the initial worries in the stud farms of the region as the mares prepare to foal down their valuable produce in the New Year.

Sales prices have been booming. We have been here before when studs have been enjoying good times only for the hammer blow to fall. It only takes a little adjustment to make things less rosy. Like a misplaced tornado for example!

Loves Only You signs off with Hong Kong Cup gold

Loves Only You supplemented her Breeders’ Cup success with victory in the Longines Hong Kong Cup on Sunday.

The five-year-old broke new ground for her handler Yoshito Yahagi as she became the first Japanese-trained winner at the American showpiece when landing the Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar last month and she took another big-race crown at Sha Tin.

There was plenty of European interest in the 10-furlong contest, with Aidan O’Brien’s Bolshoi Ballet and the Jim Bolger-trained Mac Swiney prominent in the early exchanges but both were back pedalling in the straight as Russian Emperor went for home.

Another Japanese raider Hishi Iguazu then launched his challenge as Yuga Kawada really got to work on Loves Only You, with the mare responding in fine style to just edge out her compatriot at the line on what is expected to be her final start.

The William Haggas-trained Dubai Honour finished with a flourish, but fell just short of third place for Tom Marquand.

Kawada said: “I’m really proud.

“She jumped well but the pace was a bit slow. She relaxed well and then I was able to get a good position.

“She’s the best female horse I’ve ever ridden. I hope she will be a good mother.”

Glory Vase was just too good for Pyledriver
Glory Vase was just too good for Pyledriver (Hong Kong Jockey Club)

Pyledriver had to settle for second as Glory Vase swooped late to land the Longines Hong Kong Vase.

The William Muir and Chris Grassick-trained Pyledriver, winner of the Coronation Cup earlier in the year was well-fancied to claim a second Group One victory in this 12-furlong heat and he travelled well throughout for Martin Dwyer, settling in third as Reliable Team and Stay Foolish set the early gallop, before unleashing his run down the straight.

French runner Ebaiyra tried to go with him but Pyledriver had her measure, however, Glory Vase, who had raced at the back of the field through the early stages, was just getting rolling and he finished with a flourish down the middle of the track to claim a one-length victory.

Pyledriver takes home £415,486 for runner-up spot and Dwyer was pleased enough, but felt the winner was just too good.

He said: “Really pleased, good run but I think the winner is very good.”

Moreira was thrilled to claim the contest again and said: “I had a smooth run, going to the fence and saving ground. I just made sure I got into the clear and I know he’s a very strong horse at the finish and there was not a fight.

“He has proven to be the best horse today.”

Golden Sixty won a second Hong Kong Mile
Golden Sixty won a second Hong Kong Mile (HKJC)

Golden Sixty chalked up his 16th consecutive victory as he successfully defended his Longines Hong Kong Mile title.

The six-year-old has not been beaten since July 2019, when he suffered the only defeat of his career so far, and he extended his winning run in fine style in the hands of Vincent Ho.

Golden Sixty assumed his usual early position towards the back of the field in this Group One heat, with Aidan O’Brien’s 1000 Guineas winner Mother Earth racing on his heels as the leaders set only a moderate early pace.

Ho started to close up turning for home, but at the top of the straight it looked as though he may struggle to get a run on the Francis Lui-trained star, but when the gap finally appeared, Golden Sixty engaged another gear to kick clear. Mother Earth stayed on strongly to take fourth under Ryan Moore.

Golden Sixty is now Hong Kong’s most prolific winner, notching a 19th overall win in this contest.

“I knew he was at his best, gate two was a little bit tricky, I didn’t want to be stuck on the inside but eventually the race panned out well and the pace was genuine,” Ho said.

“It was much better today because the pace was on, he actually relaxed very well and as a six-year-old he’s more mature, so it’s even better.

“It’s all about teamwork as well, without anyone from the stable we couldn’t do this.

“Last year it wasn’t like this, I got to enjoy it with the crowd and it’s such a great atmosphere.”

Sky Field won the Hong Kong Sprint
Sky Field won the Hong Kong Sprint (HKJC)

Sky Field had earlier won a dramatic renewal of the Longines Hong Kong Sprint.

The Blake Shinn-ridden winner grabbed the lead inside the last of the six furlongs, collaring leader Courier Wonder to take control and triumph for trainer Caspar Fownes. Resistencia took second place in the shadow of the post.

However, the race was marred by a horrible incident on the turn for home, when the Lyle Hewitson-ridden Amazing Star appeared to break down and fall. A number of horses in behind him were affected with Lucky Patch, Naboo Attack and Pixie Knight all coming down.

Hewitson, Zac Purton, rider of Lucky Patch, and Yuichi Fukunaga who was aboard Pixie Knight were all ruled out for the remainder of the card shortly after the incident.

Shinn said: ““We’ve always had faith in him but on the big stage things haven’t always gone this way. Today, he performed to his best today and still beat a handy horse in chasing down a top-line horse in Courier Wonder and the Japanese horse.”

Moore hopeful of more magic in Hong Kong

Ryan Moore believes Magical is capable of notching up her eighth Group One success in Sunday’s Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin.

Former Aidan O’Brien-trained runners Highland Reel, Yeats, Minding and Rock Of Gibraltar all claimed seven top-level successes, but Magical could raise the bar for the Ballydoyle handler if she triumphs in the 10-furlong feature.

Magical added both the Tattersalls Gold Cup and Irish Champion Stakes to her tally this term and was last seen chasing home Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland last month.

While Moore believes she is the one to beat, he is wary of the Japanese-trained challenge as well as home hope Furore, who has won his last two outings for Tony Cruz.

Longines Irish Champions Weekend – Day One – Leopardstown Racecourse
Magical got the better of Ghaiyyath in the Irish Champion Stakes (PA)

Moore said: “She’s been great for a long time and it’s fantastic that she’s here. She’s won seven Group Ones.

“The reality is they probably have her to beat, but again you always respect the horses that are in there.

“There’s three smart Japanese horses in there that have all won Group Ones (Danon Premium, Win Bright and Normcore).

“And Furore is in good shape. It’s a small field, but there’s not a bad one in there, I don’t think.”

Mogul was fifth in America on his latest start
Mogul was fifth in America on his latest start (Dan Abraham/PA)

Moore also teams up with the O’Brien-trained Mogul in the Longines Hong Kong Vase, with the colt having finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf on his latest run.

“He’s a beautiful horse, we’ve always held him high regard,” he said.

“He took a while to come to hand this year, but you’ll see him out on the track – he’s very well-made, a very strong colt.

“He was very impressive when he won the Grand Prix de Paris (on) Arc Trials weekend and, at the Breeders Cup, he wasn’t beaten far in what was a messy sort of a race.

“Obviously there’s only seven in there (the Vase), Exultant always runs his race but he (Mogul) would look to have a solid chance in that race.”

Moore will also be in action in the Hong Kong Sprint as he teams up with Japanese contender Danon Smash.

His trainer Takayuki Yasuda won the six-furlong prize with Danon Smash’s sire Lord Kanaloa in both 2012 and 2013.

Danon Smash finished a close-up eighth last year, but Moore is expecting a tough task against former Australian star and Everest winner Classique Legend, who is having his first run for Casper Fownes.

Danon Smash lines up in the Sprint for Moore
Danon Smash lines up in the Sprint for Moore (HKJC)

“He seems well. He’s got plenty of form in the book and it’s always hard to beat the Hong Kong horses in the Sprint,” he said.

“Obviously this year, Classique Legend looked exceptional in Australia. As always, it’s a tough race and we probably have to step up a little bit, but hopefully he can get a good run and perform well.”

Moore has prevailed on five occasions at the Hong Kong International Races – twice in the Vase with globetrotting Highland Reel in 2015 and 2017, the Cup with Snow Fairy (2010) and Maurice (2016) and the Mile with Maurice (2015).

Skalleti all set for Hong Kong Cup mission

Skalleti will bid to reinforce the impression he is a genuine Group One performer when he runs in the Longines Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday.

The Jerome Reynier-trained gelding is a multiple Group Two and Three winner – and ran a career-best when finding only Addeybb too good in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Immediately behind the five-year-old was Aidan O’Brien’s brilliant mare Magical, and the pair are set to cross swords again at the weekend.

Reynier’s charge served notice of his ability when beating subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Sottsass at Deauville in August, having previously been third to Persian King at Saint-Cloud over a trip short of his best.

From Deauville he went on to Arc weekend to land the Prix Dollar for the second time and his Ascot outing was his first at the top level.

“He was getting 6lb from Sottsass and had ground conditions to suit, so I was always confident we’d see the real Skalleti,” Reynier said.

“He really put on a show that day. It was (then) just a case of keeping him in the same shape to win a second Prix Dollar.”

It was a quick turnaround from ParisLongchamp to Ascot, and Reynier explained: “On top of that he had a change of surroundings because I kept him in Chantilly rather than head back to Calas, given the logistical issues with going to Britain.

“It wasn’t a straightforward preparation, but he showed he absolutely belongs at Group One level on his first try.

“On Sunday he needs to show he is up to that same level in very different circumstances, around two turns and on good ground and against opposition which is very used to such a set up.

“We beat Magical last time, but this might be more to her taste and we are here to see what we can do.”

Reynier will also saddle stablemate Royal Julius at the big meeting, in the Hong Kong Vase.

“We’ve had some fabulous days with him, but he comes here off the back of two average performances,” said Reynier.

“He didn’t enjoy the heavy ground in the Arc and at Rome the race circumstances were somewhat unusual.

“But his two second places in Milan were both very good. He is a horse that can get a little disheartened and so things need to go right for him.

“That said, it’s a small field with only two horses that stand out in Mogul and Exultant. Third place looks up for grabs so we have everything to gain and nothing to lose, safe in the knowledge he is in good form.

“On good ground going right-handed at between 2000 and 2400 metres, he is capable of putting up a very good performance if he is in the mood.”

Magical on course for Hong Kong Cup

Magical remains in full training and is being aimed towards the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin next month.

Aidan O’Brien’s multiple Group One winner was last seen being caught late on by Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, which followed on from her meritorious run in the Champion Stakes at Ascot.

O’Brien has enjoyed a bonus season with the five-year-old whatever happens in Hong Kong, as it was assumed she was going to be retired this time last year.

The decision to keep her in training has been well rewarded, with Group One victories in the Pretty Polly Stakes, the Tattersalls Gold Cup and a barnstorming display in the Irish Champion Stakes over Ghaiyyath.

“At the moment the plan is to take her to Hong Kong,” said O’Brien.

“She’s still in full work at the moment and that’s what we are looking at the minute.

“She ran very well in America, we were very happy with her at the Breeders’ Cup.”