Cirrus des Aigles, the overwhelming favourite in the Longines Hong Kong Cup (2,000 metres), has been forced to bow out with a fetlock injury.
“It’s wiser not to race”, said trainer Corine Barande-Barbe. “We’ve decided we don’t want to compromise the rest of his career.”
The decision sets the scene for a race that is now wide open to outsiders, such as French horses Saônois (French Derby) – less at home on soft ground – and Giofra (Falmouth Stakes).
Also in the running will be the holder of the 2011 title California Memory, and the horse owned by Queen Elizabeth II, Carlton House, in his last race before leaving for Australia.
Sha Tin is hosting more than just the Longines Hong Kong Cup this Sunday: it will be the scene of four Group 1s over four different distances.
Contested over 2,400 metres, the Longines Hong Kong Vase should also feature a strong French contingent, including Dunaden, winner in 2011. He will face the off-form Méandre, Bayrir, who was disappointing in the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and Red Cadeaux, who is tired after travelling to Japan.
The Longines Hong Kong Mile will be the chance for Don Bosco, owned by the actor Omar Sharif, to confirm, in his first Group 1, all the natural ability he demonstrated at Saint-Cloud. But the François Doumen-trained Siyouma, winner of the Sun Chariot Stakes will push him right to the end, as will Gordon Lord Byron, who is very sharp over the distance and particularly at ease on soft ground.
So as to complete their range of horse races, the Longines Hong Kong International Races added the Hong Kong Sprint in 1999, which became a Group 1 in 2002. Lucky Nine is competing to retain his crown, alongside favourite jockey Brett Prebble.
Over 1,200 metres, he will grapple with the Australian delegation, which has provided six out of the 12 registered contestants. Gérald Mossé will ride Joy and Fun, who has only raced twice this year but is used to Sha Tin, where this gelding took second in 2011’s Longines Hong Kong Sprint.
This 2012 session of the Longines Hong Kong International Races, which is expected to be a bit soggy after recent rain, should produce a unique spectacle in a prestigious setting.
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