Steve Moran’s selections for the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races
G1 LONGINES HONG KONG VASE (2400m)
TALISMANIC and HIGHLAND REEL are clearly the top two internationally rated runners in this race and, barring something untoward, I expect one of the two to win this race. I favour TALISMANIC on the basis that he did beat HIGHLAND REEL ‘fair and square’ in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf (2400m). He is also likely to be the better price and, if so, the market is wrong.
TALISMANIC has won four of his five starts on good rated tracks with his only defeat coming in the 2016 G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m), after which he was immediately spelled. True, he enjoyed the run of the race at Del Mar but there’s every likelihood the same will transpire here from gate one. He and Highland Reel are likely to roll forward to trail likely pacemaker Danehill Kodiac.
Most of their rivals are well exposed. The exception is Japanese three-year-old KISEKI and his form obviously stands up via Japan Cup runner-up Rey De Oro. Kiseki is likely to settle well back and inside from gate three so a victory could well depend on either some good fortune or a peach of a ride from Mirco Demuro. Compatriot TOSEN BASIL did beat home the Japan Cup winner Cheval Grand, at his latest run, so a top-four finish from the five-year-old – especially with Joao Moreira aboard – would hardly shock.
TIPS: 2 – 1 – 12 – 8
G1 LONGINES HONG KONG SPRINT (1200m)
The John Size trained trio MR STUNNING, AMAZING KIDS and D B PIN finished in that order in the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m) and they may well repeat the dose here. MR STUNNING did cover some ground, albeit with cover, from gate 10 in that race and his winning margin was decisive without being bottomed out. Now he draws four and only bad luck, in theory, will beat him. AMAZING KIDS and D B PIN certainly ran well enough to threaten if the luck falls their way.
LUCKY BUBBLES, of course, had no luck at all in that key lead-up race and is certainly capable of winning. I can picture the 2014 winner AEROVELOCITY suffering the same fate in the Jockey Club Sprint before winning this Grand Final.
TIPS: 1 – 5 – 10 – 2
G1 LONGINES HONG KONG MILE (1600m)
The Mile is the preserve of the Hong Kong-trained horses unless a ‘freak’ like MAURICE turns up and there are no visitors of his calibre this year. The Danny Shum-trained SEASONS BLOOM is very much the obvious choice here in my opinion. He sat deep, from a wide draw, and was simply too good in the principal lead-up race. He can emulate the past two Hong Kong-trained winners – Able Friend and Beauty Only – who also won the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile (1600m).
HELENE PARAGON, BEAUTY GENERATION, BEAUTY ONLY and SICHUAN DAR ran satisfactorily in the 19 November precursor and each can be competitive here. Several of the visitors may well also be competitive but I’m risking them in terms of winning chances.
TIPS: 7 – 2 – 10 – 1 – 11
G1 LONGINES HONG KONG CUP (2000m)
There may not be huge early pressure here with no tearaway speed on paper. I’d enivsage ROBIN OF NAVAN and TIME WARP settling one-two with NEOREALISM box-seating in third spot. Such a scenario would have Joao Moreira grinning and well poised to add to his long list of feature races wins – aboard Neorealism whom he partnered to win the G1 QE II Cup at the course and distance in April. Neorealism failed in the G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) at his latest run but the ground was horrendous that day – especially relative to what horses are used to in Japan.
TIME WARP might be some value. I thought he ran very well in the G2 BOCHK Jockey Club Cup (2000m) when left with the task of carting the field up to the leader. That race winner WERTHER will obviously be hard to beat while the best longshot might be ROBIN OF NAVAN given the speed map and his terrific overall record on top of the ground.
TIPS: 2 – 4 – 9 – 7.
Steve Moran is an award winning Melbourne racing journalist who has covered the 'sport of kings' on television, radio and in print for more than 30 years.
His passion is international racing and especially the major days in Hong Kong which he has attended since 1999. He names Silent Witness, Good Ba Ba and the dual Cox Plate winner Northerly among his favourite horses and considers the Hong Kong wins of Sunline, Lord Kanaloa, A Shin Hikari and Chautauqua among the most spectacular he's seen.
He currently works for Sydney's Sky Sports Radio, and assists prominent Melbourne trainer Michael Kent with race planning and communications.