International Group 1 racing returns to Hong Kong today with the running of The Audemars Piguet QEII Cup over 2000m, featuring David Hayes and Tom Dabernig's mare Rising Romance and 7 Australian jockeys out of the 13 riding!
Next week will of course see Buffering and Chautauqua compete in the Group 1 Sprint, as well as the Group 1 Champions Mile featuring Japanese superstar Maurice, but there is a host of international talent on display in today's big event first.
This really is a tremendous field and one that really is worthy of international Group 1 status, with horses from the UK, Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong and Australia all engaged.
Let's go through each runner:
BLAZING SPEED: Last year's winner of this race but he's been slightly disappointing recently and this is an incredibly strong field so he'd have to be at his absolute best to win, which I'm sure he's not. Will get a good run from the barrier.
HIGHLAND REEL: Winner of the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase over 2400m back in December. Definitely has the ability to go close here and looks better suited 2nd up rather than first up like he was in Dubai last start. Keep him safe.
LOVELY DAY: Japanese Group 1 winner who gets the eye-catching booking of Joao Moreira. Comes into this second up after 4th in a Group 2 first up. Second up last prep he won a Group 1 over 2000m defeating a handy one in Staphanos. Good chance.
DESIGNS ON ROME: Multiple Group 1 winner in Hong Kong and this is his best distance. He's got 7 wins over 2000m and he ran very well to finish 3rd over 1600m first up. Much better suited here but will have to be at his very best to win.
MILITARY ATTACK: Love this horse but his best days are behind him and he will struggle to be competitive in a field this strong. He's up against it here.
HELENE HAPPY STAR: Ran very well to finish 2nd behind Designs On Rome in a Group 1 two starts back but then failed horribly in a Class 1 last start. Hard to trust him on that effort and this is a top notch field and he's drawn terribly so he'll get no favours.
SATONO CROWN: Another Japanese rep and he's a very interesting runner. Returned to the track first up from a spell and won a Group 2 by 3 lengths. He has form behind Duramente and a tremendous record over 2000m. Won't mind it if the rain comes. Rates highly.
HELENE SUPER STAR: Not going well enough at all and deserves the 100/1 quote.
ERTIJAAL: Won a Group 1 by 5 lengths over this distance as a 3YO in South Africa. Ran reasonably well to finish 4th in Dubai last start behind another Japanese horse Real Steel, beaten 2.5L. Could go well at big odds.
WERTHER: Terrific win in the Group 1 HK Derby at his last start and the form has stood up with the horse he beat, Victory Magic, bolting in last start. This is a bigger test however with some seasoned Group 1 performers. He is definitely in with a chance but has to prove himself against these good horses.
HORSE OF FORTUNE: Absolutely flying in the lower grades at the moment. Absolutely bolted in last start in a Class 1 so deserves his shot at the big boys. This is a much tougher test though, especially at set weights so he may just be a bit outclassed.
NUOVO RECORD: Ran a cracker last time she was in Hong Kong when she finished 2nd to A Shin Hakari in the Hong Kong Cup over this distance. She has a good record at the distance and second up. If the pace is on she will be charging home from the back.
RISING ROMANCE: Aiming very high here! She's a decent mare but this is a very strong international Group 1 race so she looks a bit outclassed. 66/1 available at Bet365 if you like her but I can't recommend her here. She will get a great run from barrier 4 though!
What a race! I count as many as 6 horses that can win here: Highland Reel, Lovely Day, Designs On Rome, Satono Crown, Nuovo Record and Werther.
I'm going to side with the Japanese horses though, who have proved before that when they come to Hong Kong they are here to win. Satono Crown's win first up was very impressive and he won't mind the rain that is predicted. Lovely Day is obviously favourite for a reason and rates very highly too.
Highland Reel won last time he was in HK but that was over 2400m. He may still be very competitive over 2000m and he's better suited 2nd up here. Nuovo Record finished 2nd last time she was in HK and will be the one launching late, while Designs On Rome loves the trip and has won multiple Group 1 races at this track and distance.
HK Derby winner Werther is the new kid on the block and faces his stiffest test here up against international Group 1 winners. He can hold his own but I just think this may be a bit too much at this stage.
Ertijaal one to include in wider exotics.
1st SATONO CROWN
2nd LOVELY DAY
3rd DESIGNS ON ROME
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