Hong Kong entries revealed
The four winners of last year's Longines Hong Kong International races are all on course to defend their titles in December.
Highland Reel could return to Sha Tin in December
The races comprise the Longines Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the Longines Hong Kong Mile, the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
A total of 135 of this year's entries are overseas nominations, against 49 from Hong Kong. In all, 69 of the nominated horses are Group One winners and include all four of last year's victors, Japan's subsequent Horse of the Year, Maurice, compatriot A Shin Hikari, Highland Reel and local hero Peniaphobia.
The entries for the HK$83 million end-of-year showcase at Sha Tin on Sunday, 11 December come from across four continents and 13 jurisdictions.
Highland Reel gave Aidan O'Brien a first Hong Kong win in last year's Vase and the master of Ballydoyle has a stellar hand among his eight nominations this year.
As well as the aforementioned King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, O'Brien's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe heroine Found holds entries for Sha Tin in December, in both the Cup and the Vase; Alice Springs, with three Group One wins already on the board, could start in either the Mile or the Cup; classic heroine Seventh Heaven, winner of the Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks has Cup and Vase entries; and last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Hit It A Bomb is engaged in the Mile and Cup.
Another international heavyweight, Japan's Maurice triumphed in the Longines Hong Kong Mile last year but this time trainer Noriyuki Hori is favouring a tilt at the showpiece Longines Hong Kong Cup, although the four-time Group One winner does hold a mile entry, too.
The Cup's Japanese bloc is prodigious. As well as Maurice, the entries feature Dubai Turf hero Real Steel, last year's runner-up Nuovo Record, one-time JRA 2000m champion Lovely Day, Maurice's recent Sapporo Kinen conqueror Neorealism and returning champion A Shin Hikari, the world's top-rated turf horse according to the official Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings, thanks to his spring demolition of European rivals in the G1 Prix d'Ispahan.
All told, the early Cup candidates offer the potential of a vintage renewal with Pleascach engaged for trainer Jim Bolger, who lifted the prize in 2004 with another filly, Alexander Goldrun. Australia's exciting Caulfield Cup heroine Jameka is also entered for the Cup and holds a Vase entry as well.
Mr. Anthony Kelly, Executive Director, Racing and Business Operations at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: ""After Highland Reel's win last year, his first in open Group 1 company, it is pleasing to see Aidan O'Brien nominate such strong candidates.
"It is also fantastic to have such a mass of Japan's stars entered on the back of last year's successes, and with so many top-class horses entered from four continents, it looks a certainty that the second Sunday in December will deliver an afternoon of exceptional horse racing."
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