Champion British jockey Ryan Moore believes Magical is primed to forge rare new territory for Aidan O’Brien in the HK$28 million Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) when the Irish globe-trotter vies for an eighth Group 1.
Magical currently shares top billing at Ballydoyle for the most wins at the highest level, occupying a cluttered mantle along with dual LONGINES Hong Kong Vase winner Highland Reel, Ascot Gold Cup champion Yeats, Minding and Rock Of Gibraltar.
Moore, 37, is familiar with the jaw-dropping feats of O’Brien’s equine giants and, with history beckoning at Sha Tin on Sunday 13 December, is confident Magical can again live up to her name.
“She’s been great for a long time and it’s fantastic that she’s here. She’s won seven Group 1s,” he said.
“The reality is they probably have her to beat, but again you always respect the horses that are in there.
“There’s three smart Japanese horses in there that have all won Group 1s (Danon Premium, Win Bright and Normcore).
“And Furore is in good shape. It’s a small field but there’s not a bad one in there, I don’t think.”
The Hong Kong Cup features no fewer than six individual Group 1 winners.
With the return of defending champion Win Bright for trainer Yoshihiro Hatakeyama and jockey Masami Matsuoka, Moore is using a ready form reference through recently retired Magic Wand, who finished second to Win Bright in the 2019 Hong Kong Cup.
“Magic Wand was a super mare but Magical would, you would think, beat her,” Moore said. “(Magical is) a slight step up on her. She would bring stronger form than Magic Wand would have done.”
Moore will also ride Mogul in the HK$20 million Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m), where O’Brien’s charge will contend with six class rivals.
The striking colt has drawn plenty of admiring glances during trackwork at Sha Tin and Moore hopes the three-year-old can perform to his looks on Sunday.
“He’s a beautiful horse, we’ve always held him high regard,” he said.
“He took a while to come to hand this year but you’ll see him out on the track – he’s very well-made, a very strong colt.
“He was very impressive when he won the Grand Prix de Paris (2400m) (on) Arc Trials weekend and, at the Breeders Cup, he wasn’t beaten far in what was a messy sort of a race (when a three-length fifth behind Tarnawa).
“Obviously there’s only seven in there (the Vase), Exultant always runs his race but he (Mogul) would look to have a solid chance in that race.”
Moore will seek to add to his tally of five LONGINES Hong Kong International Races credits with Danon Smash, who finished eighth in last year’s Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m), beaten only 2.5 lengths.
A dual Group 2 and four-time Group 3 winner, Danon Smash will bid to provide Japanese trainer Takayuki Yasuda his third victory in the race.
Yasuda savoured consecutive triumphs with Danon Smash’s sire Lord Kanaloa in 2012 and ’13.
Pitted against Classique Legend and a slew of emerging Hong Kong speedsters, Moore is hoping Danon Smash can successfully contend after a leisurely gallop on turf at Sha Tin on Wednesday 9 December.
“It was nothing strenuous but he’s been here before and it was just getting a feel of him today,” Moore said.
“He seems well. He’s got plenty of form in the book and it’s always hard to beat the Hong Kong horses in the Sprint.
“Obviously this year, Classique Legend looked exceptional in Australia. As always, it’s a tough race and we probably have to step up a little bit but hopefully he can get a good run and perform well.”
Moore has prevailed on five occasions at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races – twice in the Vase with globetrotting Highland Reel in 2015 and 2017, the Cup with Snow Fairy (2010) and Maurice (2016) and the Mile with Maurice (2015).
Sunday’s blockbuster meeting offers $HK95 million alone across the four Group 1 contests on a programme which will be supported by a strong undercard.