Whenever I am lucky enough to head out to Hong Kong to take in the Longines International Races I always meet the same response back home– negativity and indifference, but the plan is to change those attitudes before I finally leave this mortal coil.
Contrary to the sometimes insular British attitudes, there are other Countries who race at the highest level, and don’t tell anyone, but they do it just as well as us and in many aspects a whole lot better and most certainly, a whole lot bigger and more flamboyantly as well. Four main races await the betting public on Sunday the 13th, every one a Group One, and all with European entries, though whether my patriotism will see me blindly following the wrong horses (which has been an issue in previous years, I confess), they still seem a sensible place to start.
Longines Hong Kong Vase 6.00am UK Time
I hate to tempt fate but this really does look the European’s to lose with the majority of the main players travelling over to try and pinch some of the £1.37 million prize fund, with the Andre Fabre trained Flintshire likely to lead the way. Now a five year old, he took the same race this time last year with any amount in hand, and as he seems even better in 2015 (as witnessed by a superb second to Golden Horn in the Arc De Triomphe), he may not be impossible to oppose but is pretty close to it. Although others say differently he looked alright to me at morning work but at the odds Cirrus Des Aigles is also a tempter with 20/1 about a horse with over £6,000,000 in prize money to date and who was fourth in the more competitive Cup here last season.
Suggestion: Flintshire at 2/1
Longines Hong Kong Sprint 6.40am UK Time
Only one name on our lips here and that has to be Irish raider Sole Power who comes here looking to add to his twelve races wins and over £2,000,000 in prize money. He knows the track inside out having finished ninth her in 2011, second in 2013, and ninth again last year, and isn’t getting any better at the age of eight, but he is a classy sprinter at his best and I am not willing to write him off quite that easily. He sits at a sorely tempting 16/1 as I write and an each way bet is very much on the cards and we all know that he can win this if everything goes his way. The most fascinating contender simply has to be Mongolian Saturday, owned and trained in Mongolia and with perhaps the most colourful connections in the sport. Trying to follow up his 20/1 Breeders Cup success here, we will all know about it if he wins, with his loyal band of supporters invariably draped in the Mongolian flag, though realistically they will all have to go some to see off favourite Gold Fun, or even Wesley Ward’s Green Mask who looks like an each way option after his fast finishing third in Kentucky and stepped up in trip today.
Suggestion: Green Mask at 16/1 EW
Longines Hong Kong Mile 7.50am UK Time
All eyes here will be on Able Friend, the one time World beater whose praises I sang loudly ahead of his below par efforts at Royal Ascot, making me look a fool in the process. He lines up here as the shortest priced favourite of the four at present (5/4 best available), though that price assumes he needed the run or some other excuse when third last time out, and not that his bubble has burst. He is very good at his best but there is no real reason why he should be that short, and the winner that day (Beauty Flame) as big as 16/1. The large Japanese contingent here are all over Maurice like a rash and simply will not hear of defeat for the son of Screen Hero who won under Ryan Moore last time out at Kyoto and he seems sure to be there or thereabouts at the business end, in what looks like the most competitive event of the whole card.Mondialiste arrives here for trainer David O’Meara and jockey Danny Tudhope and deservedly so after his second in Kentucky at the Breeders Cup, though it would be fair to say he wasn’t exactly fancied that day. We will find out on Sunday whether that was a fluke run or not, and I can but wish them the best of luck, while Esoterique is possibly Europe’s best chance for Andre Fabre and should appreciate the quicker going here after floundering in the mud at Keeneland when only seventh in the same race.
Suggestion: Able Friend at 5/4
Longines Hong Kong Cup 8.30am UK Time
The finale, the show stopper, the main event to round off the card and although GB isn’t represented we can at least switch sides to our Irish friends where Free Eagle looks the one they all have to beat, assuming we put European form above all the rest. Always thought of as a superstar, he has never really lived up to that reputation and must have his issues hence just the seven races at the age of four, but he was only four and a quarter lengths behind Golden Horn in the Arc this year despite failing to get the run of the race, and that looks rock solid form. A repeat of that run may be good enough, and as it was only his third race of the season, he will arrive here a lot fresher than most. Free Port Lux represented Freddie Head and did at least win last time out but ought to find some of these a bit too good for him, especially Designs On Rome who has been readied specifically for this race as he looks to follow up his 2014 victory. Connections seem very happy with him and he looks as fit as a fiddle in his morning trackwork though he only beat Military Attack a short head last season and he re-opposes today and arrives here in good form as well for what should be one hell of a finale on the day!
Suggestion: Free Eagle at 4/1