The 2019 Hong Kong International Races has attracted a bounty of stars among 202 nominated horses, with 66 Group 1 winners from 12 countries/regions eyeing the four-race HK$93 million event at Sha Tin on 8 December.
This year’s entry is 11 up on 2018 and features world heavyweights Almond Eye, Magical, Beauty Generation, Cross Counter, Benbatl and Santa Ana Lane. The nominees also include 10 Group 1-winning three-year-olds, notably Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, 2,000 Guineas hero Magna Grecia and Yushun Himba heroine Loves Only You, as well as crack milers King Of Change and Circus Maximus, and the speedsters Advertise, Fairyland and Ten Sovereigns.
Hong Kong won all four Group 1 features last year and those victors are set to defend their crowns: Beauty Generation will attempt to match Good Ba Ba’s record of three consecutive wins in the HK$25 million Hong Kong Mile (1600m); Mr Stunning is entered for a tilt at an unprecedented third HK$20 million Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) win; Exultant is aiming again at the HK$20 million Hong Kong Vase (2400m) and Glorious Forever will try to become only the second back-to-back winner of the HK$28 million Hong Kong Cup (2000m).
Mr. Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: “We are delighted to have more than 200 nominations for our four Group 1 races in December. The Hong Kong International Races is recognised the world over as one of the global sport’s truly great events and this year we anticipate another incredible day of elite sport.”
“That we have topped last year’s nominations and have attracted 66 individual Group 1 winners among the entries, including superstars like Almond Eye and Magical, is testament to how appealing Hong Kong racing is in the eyes of the world’s leading horsemen. Hong Kong stages superb sport with excellent prize money and on 8 December Sha Tin will be alive with the excitement of four world class championship races.”
The Hong Kong International Races has attracted a total of 289 nominations to the four races, a figure which includes multiple entries, against 262 in 2018 when the races had 191 individual horses nominated.
Hong Kong Cup
The great filly Almond Eye, a five-time Group 1 winner, holds an option for the showpiece race alongside Ireland’s champion filly Magical, winner of the Irish and the British Champion Stakes, and Godolphin’s top-class galloper Benbatl.
Almond Eye’s fellow Japanese entrant and last year’s runner-up Deirdre landed the Group 1 Nassau Stakes in England this past summer. The latter has an option for the Hong Kong Vase too. Other candidates from Japan are Win Bright, successful in the Group 1 FWD QEII Cup at the course and distance in April, the highly-regarded Danon Premium, last year’s Vase runner-up Lys Gracieux and classic winners Loves Only You and Wagnerian.
Godolphin’s Benbatl and Coolmore’s Magical hold entries in the Cup and the Hong Kong Mile, as do the latter’s Aidan O’Brien-trained stablemates Magna Grecia and Circus Maximus, and the Richard Hannon-trained 2018 Group 1 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook.
Australian triple Group 1 winner Avilius holds entries in the Cup and the Vase for Godolphin.
The full-brothers Glorious Forever and Time Warp won the past two editions and will lead the home defence along with the improving Rise High who defeated Beauty Generation over a mile recently.
Hong Kong Mile
Beauty Generation is the world’s top miler and won 10 in a row prior to a recent defeat under top-weight in a Group 2 handicap. He heads to the Hong Kong Mile via the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile on 17 November.
Hong Kong’s brilliant champion could face Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner King Of Change in December’s test, while the past two winners of the Yasuda Kinen, Indy Champ and Mozu Ascot, also hold nominations.
Magical, Benbatl, Magna Grecia, Circus Maximus and Billesdon Brook hold double entries, with the Cup an option too.
Hong Kong Vase
Exultant rallied to defeat Lys Gracieux in a thriller last year and Hong Kong’s star stayer is engaged again. He may face Ballydoyle’s Epsom Derby hero Anthony Van Dyck and that colt’s top class stablemate Kew Gardens.
Godolphin representation could come in the form of last year’s Group 1 Melbourne Cup winner Cross Counter and this season’s Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic and Group 1 Northern Dancer Turf Stakes winner Old Persian.
Japan’s Group 1 Caulfield Cup winner Mer De Glace and 2016 Group 1 Tokyo Yushun hero Makahiki also hold entries.
Hong Kong Sprint
Hong Kong champion sprinter Beat The Clock and the two-time winner Mr Stunning head the home nominations, along with two-time runner-up D B Pin, Group 1 winner Seasons Bloom and rising stars Hot King Prawn, Aethero and Regency Legend.
Australian ace Santa Ana Lane ran with merit when fourth to Beat The Clock in April’s Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize at Sha Tin and the five-time Group 1 winner could return to avenge that defeat. A strong list of Aussie nominees also includes the sharp two-time Group 1 hero Nature Strip, as well as Pierata and the promising Group 2 winner Classique Legend.
Top-class US sprinters Imperial Hint, winner of the past two editions of both the Group 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and Group 1 Vosburgh Stakes, and current Breeders’ Cup Sprint favourite Shancelot hold entries, as does Japan’s Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen winner Mr Melody.
European interest could rest with top-class three-year-olds: the speedy Group 1 Flying Five Stakes winner Fairyland, Group 1 July Cup victor Ten Sovereigns, and Advertise, winner of the Group 1 Commonwealth Cup and Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest.