FWD Champions Day attracts world class quality

Beauty Generation heads to the FWD Champions Mile seeking his ninth consecutive race win. Source: HKJC

Elite gallopers will race for HK$58 million on what promises to be another exciting FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, 28 April.

The 34 selected runners for the world class event’s three Group 1 contests were revealed today (Wednesday, 10 April) and the list includes Hong Kong’s outstanding champion Beauty Generation, Australia’s speed ace Santa Ana Lane and the crack Japanese mares Lys Gracieux and Deirdre.

FWD Champions Day is the highlight of Hong Kong’s spring programme and features the HK$24 million Group 1 FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m), the HK$18 million Group 1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) and the HK$16 million Group 1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).

Mr. Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said: “We are pleased that FWD Champions Day has again attracted top-class competitors from Hong Kong and overseas. The Hong Kong Jockey Club’s decision to stage these three elite Group 1 races on the same day was vindicated last year with a fantastic afternoon of international racing and we are looking forward to the same again on 28 April.

“The line-up of 34 horses across the three races this time includes a total of 17 individual Group 1 winners, including those from Japan, Australia, Britain and New Zealand. It is a pleasure to welcome our Australian friends back to Sha Tin and the sprinters, in particular, will be a force in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.

“From a Hong Kong perspective, the day will hold added significance if our incredible champion Beauty Generation can set a new all-time record for career prize-money. There is plenty of great sporting action to look forward to on FWD Champions Day.”

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FWD QEII Cup

Japan has won the FWD QEII Cup four times thanks to Eishin Preston (2002 & 2003), Rulership (2012) and Neorealism (2017). This time around, Lys Gracieux and Deirdre will lead the Japanese assault, bringing their top-class ability back to Hong Kong to build on their fine efforts at the Hong Kong International Races in December.

Four months ago, at Sha Tin, Deirdre placed second in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m), while Lys Gracieux was second to Exultant in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m). Deirdre was a solid fourth to superstar filly Almond Eye in the Group 1 Dubai Turf last time, while Lys Gracieux warmed up for her FWD QEII Cup test with a good second in the Group 2 Kinko Sho (2000m).

Japan will also send across Win Bright who is rolling off two good wins, latterly in the Group 2 Nakayama Kinen (1800m) which he also won in 2018.

Australia’s Harlem has won the last two editions of the Group 1 Australian Cup (2000m) and flies to Hong Kong in excellent form.

Eminent (He’s Eminent in Australia), meanwhile, proved to be a top-class performer in Europe – fourth in the Group 1 Derby (2400m) and third in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes (2000m) – before heading Down Under for his latest run. The five-year-old was runner-up on his Australian debut in the Group 1 Ranvet Stakes (2000m).

Exultant sets the local standard as Hong Kong’s leading stayer this term with Group 1 wins in the Hong Kong Vase and Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m). The top-class Tony Cruz-trained galloper will have to be at his absolute peak to overcome the strong opposition this time.

The field also features the best of Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series protagonists, notably the Frankie Lor-trained BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Furore. Four Hong Kong Derby winners in the international era have completed the Hong Kong Derby-QEII Cup double in the same season (2005 Vengeance Of Rain, 2011 Ambitious Dragon, 2014 Designs On Rome, 2016 Werther).

Waikuku was a fast-finishing second in the Hong Kong Derby, while Group 1 Queensland Derby (2200m) hero Dark Dream followed fourth-place with a fine Class 1 victory at the course and distance.

Pakistan Star’s win last year all but lifted the grandstand roof and a repeat would surely raise it right off. The Kerm Din-owned galloper has struggled to return to that outstanding peak but showed a hint of his brilliant dash behind Beauty Generation in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) last time.

The brothers Glorious Forever and Time Warp have won the past two editions of the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup, while another Group 1 winner Eagle Way, and the SIN Group 1 Kranji Mile hero Southern Legend complete the talent-packed field.

FWD Champions Mile

Beauty Generation is among the world’s very best racehorses and the “Master Miler” will attempt a second Group 1 FWD Champions Mile success against six rivals. Trainer John Moore’s six-year-old is unbeaten in his last eight races, seven of which have been this season, matching the Hong Kong all-time record for most wins in a campaign. Victory would see him surpass Viva Pataca as the highest earner in Hong Kong history.

The field also features high-class milers Conte and Rise High and the 2018 Hong Kong Classic Cup victor Singapore Sling.

Chairman’s Sprint Prize

Hong Kong’s sprinters face tough raiders in what promises to be the season’s most thrilling speed race.

Australia won the first Group 1 edition of the Chairman’s Sprint Prize with the late-thrusting grey Chautauqua. Santa Ana Lane is another real deal Australian sprint star heading to Sha Tin. The latest of the six-year-old’s five Group 1 wins was achieved last time out, an impressive score in the T. J. Smith Stakes (1200m).

Viddora, meanwhile, heads to Hong Kong from Australia via a good fourth in Dubai’s Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) – the six-year-old mare is a two-time Group 1 winner.

Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock – second and third in this race last year – have been at the top of Hong Kong’s sprint division this term. Mr Stunning landed a second Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) in December, while Beat The Clock took the Group 1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) a month later.

That speedy duo received a shock – albeit when carrying 5lb Group 1 penalties – when Rattan rattled past them to win the prime lead-up to this contest, the Group 2 Sprint Cup (1200m).

New Zealand will cheer on Enzo’s Lad, who in January nailed back-to-back wins in the Group 1 Telegraph (1200m).

Japan’s Nac Venus is set to take her place in the 13-runner line-up. The Group 1-placed galloper won the Group 3 Keeneland Cup in August.