While the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty around many international racing events, the strength of this year's entries for the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races confirms that the Sha Tin showpiece remains high on the agenda of international horsemen, featuring world heavyweights Almond Eye, Magical, Exultant, Addeybb, Classique Legend, Beat The Clock, Beauty Generation, Golden Sixty, Win Bright and Verry Elleegant.
The nominees include Ballydoyle's G1 Grand Prix de Paris winner Mogul, among 24 entries from his age bracket which also features this year's G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe runner-up In Swoop and G1 NHK Mile Cup winner Lauda Sion as well as Salios, two-time runner-up to Contrail who recently became the third undefeated Japanese Triple Crown winner.
Japan took three of the four G1 features last year and two of those victors are entered to defend their crowns: Admire Mars could bid to win his fourth G1 in the HK$25 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), while Win Bright could have the chance to remain unbeaten over 2000m at Sha Tin with back-to-back HK$28 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup victories.
Hong Kong's champion sprinter Beat The Clock will bid for his fifth G1 and second consecutive HK$22 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m). While 2018 HK$20 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) and five-time G1 winner Exultant will attempt to recapture his crown after finishing third to Glory Vase in last year's edition.
Mr. Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: "We are delighted to have such strong nominations for our four Group 1 races in December. Considering the current climate in regard to the COVID-19 situation, it just reiterates that the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races are recognised the world over as one of the global sport's truly great events. This is something that we are extremely proud of and this year we anticipate another phenomenal day of elite sport."
"To attract global stars like Almond Eye and Magical, is testament to how appealing Hong Kong racing is in the eyes of the world's leading horsemen. Hong Kong stages superb sport with excellent prize money and on 13 December Sha Tin will take centre stage with the excitement of four world class championship races."
LONGINES Hong Kong Cup
The great mare Almond Eye , a seven-time G1 winner, holds an option for the showpiece race having been withdrawn due to a late setback in 2019. Her name sits alongside that of three-time G1 winner Addeybb, a runaway victor of the G1 Champion Stakes at Ascot when beating off seven-time G1 winner, Magical, who is also entered, while second placegetter in the same race, Skalleti, is also entered. Lord North, who holds a victory over Addeybb in the G1 Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot holds an entry as does The Revenant, winner of the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on British Champions Day.
Almond Eye's fellow Japanese entrant and last year's winner Win Bright could have the chance to enhance his unblemished record over 2000m at Sha Tin to a perfect three, after taking last year's Group 1 Spring-Autumn double of the FWD QEII Cup and LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.
Other candidates from Japan are Saturnalia, a two-time G1 winner, the highly-regarded Danon Premium, classic winner Loves Only You and globetrotting mare, Deirdre, 2018 Cup runner-up and winner of last year's G1 Nassau Stakes at Goodwood.
Trainer Chris Waller has a host of entries with options for the Cup, headlined by three-time Australian G1 winner Humidor, two-time G1 winner Kolding, Funstar, Olmedo and Yulong Prince.
Rise High, last seen when a close third for last year's Cup, also features in the entries, as does the 2020 G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup champ and winner of this race in 2017, Time Warp.
LONGINES Hong Kong Mile
Golden Sixty , who became only the second horse to clean sweep the Four-Year-Old Classic Series when winning the 2020 BMW Hong Kong Derby, headlines the entries and will spearhead the local brigade. Francis Lui's brilliant five-year-old has returned unbeaten this season and is the winner of nine consecutive races, holding a record of 12 wins from 13 starts.
Hong Kong's highest ever earner Beauty Generation, a back-to-back LONGINES Hong Kong Mile winner (2017 & 2018), will return for his fourth crack at the race, this time under the guidance of David Hayes, while G1 winners Waikuku and Southern Legend also hold nominations.
An eight-time G1 winner, Beauty Generation could reoppose last year's winner Admire Mars, a three-time G1 winner including last year's NHK Mile Cup. This year's NHK Mile Cup winner Lauda Sion also features, as does young gun Salios, winner of the G1 Asahi Hai Futurity Stakes and two-time G1 runner-up to Contrail.
Japan's contingent also features Danon Fantasy, Indy Champ, Mozu Ascot and Persian Knight.
The European brigade features three-time G1 winner Circus Maximus, who holds an entry for Aidan O'Brien, as does Lope Y Fernandez, while French G1 winners Romanised and One Master, the latter a three-time winner of the Prix de la Foret, hold entries.
From Australia, G1 Australian Guineas winner Alligator Blood holds an entry, as does three-time G1 winner Fierce Impact, as well, Chris Waller's army features heavily with Funstar, Humidor, Kolding, Mister Sea Wolf, Olmedo and Yulong Prince all holding dual entries, while Imaging holds only a pass into the Mile.
LONGINES Hong Kong Vase
Exultant rallied to defeat the top-class Lys Gracieux in 2018 before finishing a creditable third last year, but with two more G1's under his belt, the FWD QEII Cup and Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, Hong Kong's Horse of the Year returns as good as ever in his bid to recapture his LONGINES Hong Kong Vase crown.
His task could pit him against six-time G1 winner Verry Elleegant. Chris Waller's bonny mare snared the G1 Caulfield Cup on her latest start against a cracking field of 18 internationally accredited stayers. The gallant Caulfield Cup runner-up Anthony Van Dyck, who galloped to Derby glory for Ballydoyle at Epsom in 2019, is also engaged.
Dermot Weld, who tasted Hong Kong success in 1991 when Additional Risk won the Hong Kong Invitation Bowl (the forerunner of the Hong Kong Mile), has crack filly Tarnawa entered for the Vase. The four-year-old won back-to-back G1 contests at Longchamp, namely the Prix Vermeille over 2400m and the Prix de l'Opera over 2000m. She also holds an option for the Hong Kong Cup.
In Swoop, this year's G1 German Derby winner and second in the G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe holds an entry.
A sole entry from Germany comes in the form of Quest The Moon, a dual G1 placegetter who also holds an option for the Hong Kong Cup.
LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint
Champion sprinter Beat The Clock heads the Hong Kong nominations, along with the three-time G1 placed Hot King Prawn as well as 1000m Sha Tin track record holder, Aethero, but the home team is about to be strengthened considerably by the arrival of a new recruit.
Classique Legend has had this race as his prime target since his impressive win in The Everest at Royal Randwick when beating off a classy field of sprinters which featured seven individual Group 1 winners. The five-year-old brings world-class sprinting ability to his new base and will arrive in Hong Kong in November to be trained by Caspar Fownes.
Australian speedster Nature Strip, a sharp four-time G1 winner, is the sole entrant from Down Under, while this year's G1 July Cup winner Oxted is entered, along with G1 British Champions Sprint Stakes winner Glen Shiel and Equilateral, who finished second to the exceptional Battaash in this year's G1 King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Top-class Japanese sprinters A Will A Way, Curren Moe, Danon Smash, Diatonic, Tower Of London and last year's G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen winner Mr Melody all hold entries.
North American interests lie with Oleksandra, winner of the G1 Jaipur Invitational at Belmont Park as well as the Wesley Ward-trained Four Wheel Drive, winner of the G2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.
Singapore has one entry for the Hong Kong Sprint with speedster Inferno, who recently captured the SIN G1 Lion City Cup, holding a nomination.