As the year closes attention moves to Hong Kong for their annual big day of top class international racing.
Four Group 1’s take place early Sunday morning with the Vase up first over 1m4f followed by the Sprint over 6 f then the mile and finishing with the centrepiece of the day The Hong Kong Cup over 10 f.
First up in the Vase may represent the best chance for European raiders where a field of 13 go to post with 9 representing Europe, 5 from England and 4 from France. Dunaden returns to defend his crown without the Melbourne Cup he had tucked away last year. His form hasn’t reached the heights of last year due to a combination of slow pace and no luck in running in Europe but he rectified that in the Caulfield Cup when off a strong pace he was able to sit off them and come with a late rattle to pick them off. At Flemington he’d no chance when the race was run at a crawl and connections will hope that a decent pace will bring him into the reckoning again here.
Sea Moon was his conqueror in the Group 2 Hardwicke at Royal Ascot but in the King George in July and again in the Arc in October he failed to bring his form up to Group 1 level.
Marco Botti has got a fine tune out of Joshua Tree winning the Prix Kergolary, a Group 2 at Deauville and after a 1 3/4 l defeat to Orfvere in the Prix Foy (Meandre second) he went to Woodbine to take the Group 1 Canadian International. The Farbe colt didn’t cope with the ground in the Arc.
Dancing Rain the 2011 Oaks winner was third on her comeback run on champions day is an interesting contender. She went to Kyoto in November last year sustaining an injury in the process and having removed the cobwebs at Ascot she must come into calculations. Of the outsiders Pagera catches the eye, second to Siyouma at Woodbine in the EP Taylor who showed her win over Elusive Kate was no fluke in the Sun Chariot.
Chinchon the Singapore Airlines winner was well beaten last time out on his first run since Kranji while Jaguar Mail third in last years Japan Cup could only manage tenth on this years renewal.
Bayrir is the only three year old in the race and in the spring and summer looked an exciting colt in the making culminating in a Secretariat Stakes win on million night at Arlington. A second in the Prix Neil should have set up a good Arc run but ground there was against him. He’s got a nice draw in one and with Patrice “Starcraft” Lemaire on top there is a great chance we’ll see further improvement with the pilot expected to exploit the weight for age to the maximum.
The sprint will stay local with the ex Irish Lucky Nine while in the mile Tom Hogan’s Gordon Lord Byron can fly the flag for Ireland.
In the Cup unfortunately robbed of the participation of Cirrus Des Aigles Saonois winner of the Prix Neil over Bayrir can overcome the local challenge of California Memory and the Australian Alcopop.
Don’t forget to set the clock or at least the tape as it’s on At The Races.
The Vase – Bayrir 11/1 win
The Sprint – Lucky Nine 9/2 win
The Mile – Gordon Lord Byron 10/1 win
The Cup – Saonois 5/1 win