Hong Kong’s brilliant Derby winner Ping Hai Star is among the 116 horses from 12 jurisdictions nominated to contest one of three Group 1 features at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday, 29 April.
For the first time, the HK$24 million Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m), the HK$18 million Champions Mile and the HK$16 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) will form an exciting world class triple-header on a single afternoon. All rank in the World’s Top 100 Group 1 Races.
The APQEII Cup has attracted 48 nominations, 33 from overseas, with last year’s winner Neorealism among 12 G1 winners. A total of 58 horses are engaged for the Champions Mile, 43 from overseas and 16 of them successful already in G1 company including Japan’s Real Steel and Hong Kong’s Beauty Generation. The Chairman’s Sprint Prize has attracted nine G1 winners, including local stars Mr Stunning and D B Pin, among its 44 entries, 32 of which are trained overseas.
Horses from Hong Kong, Australia, Bahrain, France, Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan New Zealand, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and the USA make up this year’s nominations.
Mr. Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing, at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: “The Hong Kong Jockey Club is always looking at ways to innovate and improve. In that vein, this year we have taken three elite races and put them together on one day to create what we anticipate will be a world class festival of Group 1 sport.
“There is always an excitement around our spring features and this year, with our new format, we are pleased to have high-class nominations from five continents, including a total of 37 individual Group 1 winners from some of the world’s great racing stables. It’s particularly pleasing to see a significant increase in the number of nominations from Japan with 41 across the three races this year against 16 overall in 2017.
“Hong Kong’s horse population has been in a renewal phase in recent times after the retirements of past champions, and this season we have seen a new wave start to establish itself with the likes of Time Warp, Beauty Generation, Mr Stunning and D B Pin. Now we are seeing the next generation emerge: Ping Hai Star leads the way thanks to a brilliant Derby victory and the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup could be the stage for him to test his merits in international Group 1 company. It promises to be a first class occasion.”
Audemars Piguet QEII Cup
Neorealism held Pakistan Star to win last year’s race and the Noriyuki Hori-trained galloper is one of 15 Japanese nominations this time, alongside past G1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m) winner Satono Crown and last year’s G1 Satsuki Sho (2000m) hero Al Ain. G1-placed mare Crocosmia is also engaged, as is G2 winner and G1 Satsuki Sho third Danburite.
Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien has G1 talents Deauville and Lancaster Bomber among his four entries – both also hold nominations for the Champions Mile. His French counterpart, Andre Fabre, has engaged the exciting prospect Trais Fluors, runner-up in the G1 Prix Jean Prat (1600m) last term. South Africa’s G1 Sun Met (2000m) winner, Whisky Baron, is nominated.
As well as the John Size-trained Ping Hai Star – who holds a second nomination for the Champions Mile – the Hong Kong contingent includes the talented Tony Cruz-trained trio, Time Warp, the aforementioned Pakistan Star and recent Hong Kong Derby third Exultant. Time Warp made all for a breath-taking win in December’s G1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and subsequently lowered the track record for the distance when victorious in last month’s G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup.
Hong Kong’s current standout miler Beauty Generation is one of 15 home nominees for the Champions Mile against 43 from overseas. International raiders to Sha Tin at the end of April could include G1 Dubai Turf (1800m) hero Real Steel and last year’s G1 Victoria Mile heroine Admire Lead, both from Japan.
Godolphin’s Blair House won the G1 Jebel Hatta (1800m) at Meydan recently and is engaged, as is the horse that ran third, the Mike de Kock-trained G2 Zabeel Mile winner, Janoobi. G1 British Champions Sprint (1200m) victor Librisa Breeze is a top-class prospect from Europe – that Dean Ivory-trained grey holds a dual entry, with the Chairman’s Sprint Prize also an option.
The home town contingent features last year’s runner-up Beauty Only and G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) winner Seasons Bloom, as well as rising stars Fifty Fifty, Pingwu Spark, Southern Legend, and, from the four-year-old crop, Hong Kong Classic Mile victor Nothingilikemore and Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) winner Singapore Sling, who also holds a second-choice entry for the APQEII Cup.
Chairman’s Sprint Prize
Another great edition of Hong Kong’s spring speed feature looks to be on the cards with top-class talent engaged, last year’s one-two Lucky Bubbles, trained by Francis Lui, and Mr Stunning included.
Mr Stunning won the G1 Hong Kong Sprint at the track and trip in December, and the horse he beat that day, D B Pin, turned the tables when successful in the G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) in January. An intriguing entry is that pair’s Size-trained stablemate Ivictory, a brilliant winner in the lesser grades so far this term and a burgeoning talent. Fellow Size sprinters Beat The Clock and Amazing Kids are also nominated.
Godolphin’s Jungle Cat is entered for a possible trip to Sha Tin, having won the G2 Al Fahidi Fort (1400m) and the Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint (1200m) already this year. Bahrain could be represented by Jordan Sport, an impressive winner of the G3 Mahab Al Shimaal (1200m, dirt) at Meydan recently for trainer Fawzi Nass.
Japan’s G1-winning mare Let’s Go Donki has a chance to build on her sixth in last December’s G1 Hong Kong Sprint, while G2 Centaur Stakes (1200m) winner Fine Needle could also line up. The G2 winner Bucchero, fourth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (1000m), is entered to fly the flag for the United States.