HK's Champions Day to uplift day of sport
Local and foreign racing fans can enjoy three exciting Group 1 races at Sha Tin
Racing fans from Hong Kong, and other countries such as Singapore, can look forward to three exciting Group 1 races at Sha Tin on Sunday - even if its FWD Champions Day meeting will be held behind closed doors because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
They are the HK$25 million (S$4.5 million) Queen Elizabeth II Cup (QEII Cup) over 2,000m, the HK$20 million FWD Champions Mile over 1,600m and the HK$18 million Chairman's Sprint Prize over 1,200m.
There will be no overseas horses participating to raise the bar this year, however, owing to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Despite this, there is no lack of class and quality from the strong Hong Kong equine ranks.
The horses selected to compete in the three races include 10 individual Group 1 winners and 12 horses that have won a Group 2 race and/or finished second or third at Group 1 level.
Andrew Harding, the executive director of racing of The Hong Kong Jockey Club, said that people in Hong Kong and around the world are working through a difficult time and, in such circumstances, sport must be positioned in a place of appropriate relevance.
"The fact that Hong Kong can draw on the best of our 1,300 horses to stage three Group 1 races of such quality is testament to the talent we have here and we are happy to be in a position to invite racing fans around the world to enjoy an uplifting day of sport," he added.
Although trainer Francis Lui has decided to rest his 10-in-a-row winner Golden Sixty to prepare him for next season, the race is still one with a gilt edge.
Spearheading the QEII Cup list will be the Tony Cruz-trained Champion Stayer and Champion Middle-Distance Horse Exultant. The three-time Group 1 winner was arguably unlucky last year, when second to Japan's Win Bright.
He is back in form, finishing a close second behind stablemate Time Warp in the Group 1 Hong Kong Gold Cup ( 2,000m).
Cruz is also represented by Furore, who won the Hong Kong Derby last year, when trained by Frankie Lor.
The trio are the highest-rated runners in the field, which also include Time Warp's year-younger full-brother, the Lor-trained Glorious Forever, the winner of the 2018 Group 1 Hong Kong Cup.
FWD CHAMPIONS MILE
Two-time Horse of the Year Beauty Generation was imperious in winning the last two FWD Champions Mile.
The equal highest-rated (127) horse in Hong Kong history surpassed Viva Pataca's old prize money record when winning the race in 2019 and his last-start win in the Group 2 Chairman's Trophy (1,600m) saw him break the HK$100 million barrier.
Trainer John Moore's stable star had his incredible 18-month unbeaten streak halted last October at 10 wins.
But the great miler has since bounced back with victories in the Group 1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup over 1,400m in February and followed up in the Chairman's Trophy. Last year's world's top-rated miler is once again the horse to beat as he bids to become the first to win the Champions Mile three times.
His chief rival is the John Size-trained Waikuku, a rising talent who has finished ahead of Beauty Generation four times this season, including in the Group 1 Stewards' Cup (1,600m) in January.
Cruz's Ka Ying Star is the other top hope, having proven to be a high-class runner in Group 1 contests this term. The bay was third in the Stewards' Cup and placed a half-length second to Beauty Generation in both the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup and Chairman's Trophy.
CHAIRMAN'S SPRINT PRIZE
With last year's winner Beat The Clock sidelined since February, the opportunity arises for the emergence of a challenger to his Champion Sprinter crown.
Leading the sprinting ranks are Aethero, Hot King Prawn and Voyage Warrior - all crack sprinters in their own right.
Trainer Moore's stable believes it has the next superstar on the block in Aethero.
Still a three-year-old and on 119 local rating - just two notches below what the great Silent Witness was at the end of his three-year-old campaign - Aethero displayed his star potential when landing the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint (1,200m) last November.