Romantic Warrior won the Hong Kong Cup last year in a tour-de-force performance in stakes record time
Some early, random thoughts on the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) coming up on Dec. 10.
I think that Shahryar will be the strongest play of the four HKIR races. He is a multiple Group 1 stakes winner and the 2,400 meters of the Vase (G1) will be perfect for him having won the Sheema Classic (G1) in 2022 and the Japanese Derby (G1) in 2021 at the trip. Yes, it’s been a long time since he had his picture taken but, in my opinion, he has this group over a barrel.
In the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), he saved ground throughout but found himself lacking room coming out of the final turn. Three times, his rider Cristian Demuro had to tap on the brakes when he looked for room on the outside. He went back to the inside but by then, Auguste Rodin had stormed through the narrow gap and won over Up to the Mark. Shahryar was a half-length behind in third and had Demuro stayed on the inside, he might have gotten the trip that Ryan Moore got aboard Auguste Rodin.
The son of the immortal Deep Impact should thrive on the ground at Sha Tin and looks too tough for this group.
The Sprint (G1) will showcase the world’s highest rated sprinter in local hero Lucky Sweynesse. The winner of eight races from 10 starts here last year, he won three Group 1 stakes at the Sprint’s distance of 1,200 meters. He was sixth in this race last year when he was stuck in traffic due to a very slow pace and will be out for revenge.
Trainer Manfred Man ran Lucky Sweynesse on opening day in September and was second to Victor the Winner while conceding a hefty 20 pounds. Six weeks later, he was victimized by a very slow pace and his dramatic surge missed by a whisker while conceding 14 pounds to Sight Success. Last out in the Jockey Club Sprint (G2), he overcame another dawdling pace while only conceding five pounds to Victor the Winner.
His middle sectionals have been sensational and now he should get the right set-up with a bigger field and stronger pace. He seems to thrive on work so his fourth start of the young season should have him at a peak. Wellington is still going strong and the top Euro invader looks to be Highfield Princess, a 6-year-old mare that seems to be better going five furlongs than six. Lucky Sweynesse should rule here at short odds.
Romantic Warrior made history when he shipped to Australia and won the Cox Plate (G1). He won the Cup (G1) last year in a tour-de-force performance in stakes record time but that was off a domestic preparation. How he bounces back from his trip remains to be seen and he will have to contend with Aidan O’Brien’s Luxembourg, a Group 1 stakes winner at two, three and four. Last out, he was a half-length behind Auguste Rodin in the Irish Champion Stakes (G1) going this distance and should be the main danger to Romantic Warrior.
Golden Sixty is now eight years old and hasn’t run since April 30 last year when he won the Champions Mile (G1) in good time. He won four of five starts last year but lost the Mile (G1) to California Spangle when Zac Purton put on a riding clinic and held on by a nose after controlling the race. Purton has been replaced by Matthew Chadwick aboard California Spangle who still could be the one to catch in the deep stretch.
Golden Sixty’s barrier trials look solid enough but, without a prep race at the age of eight, how will the multiple Horse of the Year do first out? Older horses can fool you and I will be curious to see what his weight will be. The son of Medaglia d’Oro raced last year at around 1,120 pounds and I wouldn’t want him to show up much higher than that.
As fast as California Spangle can be, he can sit and stalk and at level weights will be tough again. Beauty Eternal won the Jockey Club Mile (G2) last out for Zac Purton who was getting his revenge over California Spangle when he flew home in 22.75 seconds. Purton can sit off the pace going into the turn then see how the race is unfolding.
Japan has five entrants in the Mile and the highest rated are Danon the Kid, who will need a fast pace to set up his closing kick, and Serifos, who won the Mile Championship (G1) last year against a strong field in good time.
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