Dubai Honour chases third straight Group 1 win in QEII Cup

Dubai Honour exercises under Issy Paul at Sha Tin ahead of the FWD QEII Cup.

Seven races in three countries and some 16 months have passed since William Haggas-trained Dubai Honour was first set for the international racing stage at the 2021 Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin.

On that occasion, he more than confirmed the quality of his three-year-old form with a closing one and a quarter lengths fourth to Japan’s Loves Only You, who earlier that year had also won the Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m), in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

However, a fruitless 2022 season followed and some debate continues as to whether he has recaptured his best form or improved in 2023 despite his two Gr1 wins in Australia in March and April. That debate may well be adjudicated in Sunday’s HK$25 million Group 1 QEII Cup (2000m).

Issy Paul, the gelding’s regular rider and assistant to Haggas, has been by his side – and on his back – in Australia and Hong Kong and is best placed to offer some insight into his progress.

“I’d love to think he has improved,” Paul said, “And I do think he’s in better form than he was last year but we’ll see what happens in the season to come. The one-on-one attention he certainly enjoys and even the silly stuff like having the sun on his back in Australia and a good roll in the sand has seen him thrive.

“Perhaps, he was a little below his best last year. Obviously, he was a very good three-year-old so whether he’s improved now or gone back to the level of that very good three-year-old form I’m not sure.

“We do have some very nice mile and a quarter, 2000 metres horses at home (England) and how he would fare against them this season I guess remains to be seen.”

First is the matter of Sunday’s race where he faces small but select opposition headed by last December’s Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) winner Romantic Warrior.

“From my perspective, he still feels great as he did in Australia. It will be a really tough ask but the boss (William Haggas) is very shrewd and wouldn’t have him here if he didn’t think he had a flying chance.

“His weight is good, he takes everything in his stride and he feels like he’s in really good form so fingers crossed we see another very good performance on Sunday,” said Paul.

Paul harbours an ambition to train in her own right but not in the immediate future.

“Maybe one day but no rush on that. William is brilliant to work for her and we get the opportunity to work with some great horses. We have lots of communication with the boss, of course, but it’s amazing how he trusts us to get the job done.

“I’m very fond of this horse (Dubai Honour) and by Sunday, I’ll have been away with him for nearly two and a half months so I’m hopeful he’ll run very well again and I’m sure he will,” Paul said.

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