16 individual Group 1 winners feature in HKIR selection

Golden Sixty is 25-time winner from 29 starts.

A stellar cast of world-class horses headed by Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior, Highfield Princess, Luxembourg and Lucky Sweynesse feature among 49 gallopers from Hong Kong, Japan, France, Ireland, Great Britain, Singapore and the United States of America selected for the HK$118 million Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) at Sha Tin on Sunday, December 10.

16 individual Group 1 winners will bid for a share of the combined record purse on offer across the HK$36 million Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m), HK$32 million Group 1 Hong Kong Mile (1600m), HK$26 million Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and HK$24 million Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m).

Demonstrating significant international support for Hong Kong’s showpiece meeting, 25 of the selected runners are from overseas as Golden Sixty makes his long-anticipated competitive return when Hong Kong’s equine idol attempts to join Good Ba Ba as a three-time winner of the Hong Kong Mile.

Winner of a Hong Kong record nine Group 1s, Golden Sixty’s pursuit of history will be challenged by Japan’s Namur, who claimed her first Group 1 with success in the Group 1 Mile Championship (1600m) at Kyoto on Sunday (November 19), and Serifos, who won the 2022 Mile Championship and was runner-up in this year’s Group 1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) behind Songline at Tokyo. France’s Tribalist, trained by Andre Fabre, is also a high-class contender.

Outstanding English sprinter Highfield Princess, already a four-time Group 1 winner in three different countries, will bid to become the first visitor to land the Hong Kong Sprint since Japanese star Danon Smash won the blue riband speed test in 2020.

John Quinn’s mare will face a formidable Hong Kong defence led by the world’s top-ranked sprinter Lucky Sweynesse, who won the G2 BOCHK Private Banking Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (19 November) and last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint winner Wellington.

Champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien returns in quest of a fourth LONGINES HKIR triumph, and his first victory in the Hong Kong Cup, having previously celebrated a trio of Hong Kong Vase successes with Highland Reel (twice) and Mogul.

The master horseman will be represented by 2023 Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup (2100m) winner Luxembourg, who was runner-up at his last start to his outstanding stablemate Auguste Rodin in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes (2000m).

In what shapes as a highlight of the glittering meeting, Hong Kong will be led by last season’s Hong Kong Cup winner and recent Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) champion Romantic Warrior, while the presence of France’s Horizon Dore and Japan’s Prognosis, Rousham Park and Hishi Iguazu adds further intrigue.

With eight victories from the past 10 runnings of the Hong Kong Vase, the visiting contingent again shapes strongly with the presence of Japanese globe-trotter Shahryar, whose credits include wins in the 2021 Group 1 Japanese Derby (2400m) and 2022 Dubai Sheema Classic (2410m).

Imperiously-bred Geraldina returns from Japan, along with Andre Fabre’s Junko and Aidan O’Brien’s Warm Heart, a dual Group 1 winner this year with triumphs in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks (2371m) and the Group 1 Prix Vermeille (2400m) at Longchamp.

Hong Kong’s quest for its first Vase victory since Exultant in 2018 will be spearheaded by reigning Hong Kong Champion Stayer Russian Emperor, Senor Toba and Five G Patch, while US-based trainer Christophe Clement will be represented by Soldier Rising.

Underlining HKIR’s global appeal, Singapore’s top horse Lim’s Kosciuszko returns for Dan Meagher in the Hong Kong Mile.

Mr Andrew Harding, The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said: “The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races stand as one of the most important racing events on the global calendar and this year we look forward to hosting a decorated line-up from Japan, France, Ireland, Singapore, the United States and Great Britain.

“We are excited by the quality of selected runners for this year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races and the presence of so many global stars is in keeping with our long-held commitment to deliver sporting excellence. This is particularly highlighted with Japan, Europe and Ireland’s contingent as they prepare to compete against Hong Kong champions Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior and Lucky Sweynesse.

“Golden Sixty remains Hong Kong horse racing’s idol and he will be strongly supported by his legions of fans at Sha Tin as he chases a record-extending 10th Group 1 and a record-equalling third LONGINES Hong Kong Mile. With four Group 1 victories to his name, including his historic success in the W.S. Cox Plate, Romantic Warrior is a genuine international star and we look forward to his defence of the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.

“Last season’s staging of the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races was an amazing success with the return of owners, media and fans from around the world to urge on champion horses and jockeys and we look forward to once more welcoming our overseas friends back.

“With the selection of 49 elite horses, the stage is now set for the 2023 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races and a wonderful afternoon of sport on Sunday, 10 December at Sha Tin.”

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