O’Brien back for more HKIR triumphs, Latest Racing News - The New Paper

O’Brien back for more HKIR triumphs

Top Irish trainer counts on Stone Age and Broome in Vase, Order Of Australia in Cup

HONG KONG - With so many opportunities throughout a racing calendar which stretches across the world, it has been only the very hardiest of champion Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien’s string which have been able to make an impact at the Longines Hong Kong International Races (HKIR).

Few visited more places than his magnificent Highland Reel, who signed off in 2017 with his second victory in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Vase (2,400m), while Magic Wand, defeated by just a shorthead in the 2019 Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup (2,000m), had barely stopped during a year which also saw her travel to Australia, the United States and the Gulf.

O’Brien’s three HKIR candidates on Sunday – Stone Age and Broome in the Vase and Order Of Australia in the Cup – have already demonstrated their hardiness and the trainer’s strength appears to lie again in the Vase, a race he also claimed in 2020 with Mogul.

Stone Age, a good-looking son of the late super sire Galileo, began the year as his stable’s best contender for the Group 1 English Derby (2,405m) at Epsom in June.

Although the horse did not get the desired result there, he was a commendable third in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (2,000m) in New York just a month later.

The horse was still at the peak in November’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (2,400m), throwing down a stern challenge before finding only Godolphin’s Rebel’s Romance too good.

“We were delighted with him in the Breeders’ Cup. He ran a very good race and had progressed from his previous run at Ascot,” said O’Brien.

“We’ve been happy with everything we’ve seen from him since then. It had been on my mind to go to Hong Kong after the Breeders’ Cup.

“We thought the track, trip and ground should all suit him fine. We’re all looking forward to it.”

As Stone Age is only three years old, the best is yet to come.

“We think and hope he will (stay in training). Obviously, we think he’s progressing and he definitely could progress again from three to four,” said O’Brien.

It certainly seems strange that the legendary trainer’s other Vase runner, six-year-old Broome, has not been to Hong Kong already.

Among the oldest in his stable, the eight-time winner has been a bit slow from the gates this season, notably when sixth in the same Breeders’ Cup contest as Stone Age.

But he recorded a valuable win in the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes (2,392m) at Royal Ascot in June.

“We were very happy with his run in America. He was a bit slow away, got back a little bit and finished off very well,” said O’Brien.

“We had it in our heads that we might go to the Japan Cup (Group 1, 2,400m), it just came maybe a week or two too early, and that’s why we waited.

“We were delighted to have the opportunity to come to Hong Kong with him. He’s in good form and is a very good natured, very sound horse.”

O’Brien has never won the marquee HK$34 million (S$5.92 million) Hong Kong Cup, despite a few attempts.

He will be stepping Order Of Australia up to the 2,000m trip.

The five-year-old’s biggest success came in the 2020 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile (1,600m).

He followed that up with a sixth behind Hong Kong’s superstar Golden Sixty in the Hong Kong Mile.

“He’s been running all the time over a mile, but we always thought stepping up over a mile and a quarter (2,000m) would improve him more,” said O’Brien.

“He’s obviously by Australia and we’re very happy with him. We’ll see what happens on Sunday.

“He has won over seven furlongs (1,400m) twice as well, so we kept him at a mile after the Breeders’ Cup win. But we’d think there’s a pretty good chance that (2000m) will be fine.” - HKJC