Almond Eye heads world class stars selected for the LONGINES HKIR

20/11/2019 16:08

Almond Eye is among a stellar line-up of 50 horses selected for the HK$93 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Sunday, 8 December.

Japan’s superstar filly is just one of the 26 G1 winners set to compete and the headliner among a brilliantly-talented contingent of 24 overseas raiders aiming at this year’s “Turf World Championships”.

The LONGINES HKIR is the sport’s global year-end Group 1 extravaganza and features the HK$28 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the HK$25 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), the HK$20 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the HK$20 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m).

Almond Eye is one of 11 in a powerful cohort from Japan, which also features crack milers Indy Champ, Normcore and Admire Mars, this year’s classic heroine Loves Only You and further star fillies Lucky Lilac and the talented globe-trotter Deirdre, as well as G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) victor Win Bright.

The exciting fields for the four Group 1 features also include big-name Europeans: the six-strong Irish party includes G1 Irish Champion Stakes and G1 Champion Stakes heroine Magical – another outstanding filly on the world stage – who is set to lock horns with Almond Eye in what promises to be an enthralling Hong Kong Cup clash.

Magical’s G1-winning stable mates Circus Maximus, Magic Wand and Anthony Van Dyck are also among the event’s selected runners – the last-named is set to become the first winner of the Derby at Epsom to compete at the LONGINES HKIR. G1 Preis von Europa winner Aspetar is one of four challengers from Britain, while France has two high-class selected runners including Edisa, winner of the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park in New York.

Australian representation comes in the form of the speedy mare In Her Time, a two-time G1 winner and third in the recent G1 Darley Sprint Classic (1200m).

A strong Hong Kong team is headed by established G1 big guns Beauty Generation and Exultant, and the exhilarating rising star sprinter Aethero.

Beauty Generation, Mr Stunning, Exultant and Glorious Forever completed an unprecedented Hong Kong clean-sweep of last year’s races and the quartet is engaged to defend their crowns. Beauty Generation in the Mile and Mr Stunning in the Sprint will attempt to match legendary miler Good Ba Ba’s record of three straight wins at the meeting.

Mr. Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said: “The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races is firmly established among a select handful of the world’s greatest international racing occasions. We are delighted that the quality of the selected runners for this year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races is in keeping with our long-held commitment to deliver sporting excellence.

“Almond Eye’s participation is particularly exciting when viewed in the context of the other world-class horses selected – champions of the calibre of Beauty Generation and Exultant, other global stars like Magical and the Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, and the list is long and strong. Factor in the potential of rising stars like Aethero, Waikuku and our Derby winner Furore and everything points to a thrilling afternoon of sport on 8 December.”

Hong Kong Cup

World superstar Almond Eye heads to Sha Tin with a record of eight wins from 10 starts, with six G1 victories to her name. After winning last year’s Fillies’ Triple Crown in Japan, the four-year-old smashed her rivals in the G1 Dubai Turf at Meydan and ran with merit at a mile when third in the G1 Yasuda Kinen. The daughter of two-time LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint winner Lord Kanaloa returned from a long summer break with an impressive success in the G1 Tenno Sho Autumn (2000m) in October. Compatriot Win Bright is one from one at the course and distance thanks to his G1 FWD QEII Cup win in April.

Among those out to prevent a sixth Japanese win in the race are the Aidan O’Brien-trained top-liner Magical, winner of the Irish and “British” Champion Stakes, and recent G1 Mackinnon Stakes winner Magic Wand. Last year’s winner Glorious Forever is engaged again, as is his full-brother and 2017 victor Time Warp but the biggest home contenders could be the improving G1-placed Rise High and last season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby hero Furore.

Hong Kong Mile

Good Ba Ba is the only horse in HKIR history to win three times and he achieved the feat in the Hong Kong Mile in consecutive years. Beauty Generation, imperious in making it two wins in a row last year and another star of world racing, will have to bounce back from two recent defeats if he is to make the hat-trick. The world’s top-rated miler will face his latest conqueror, the improving Waikuku, as well as some brilliant overseas raiders.

Japan’s assault has a formidable look to it: Indy Champ defeated Almond Eye when taking the G1 Yasuda Kinen in June and last weekend the colt saw off the highly-regarded Danon Premium to win the second of his country’s two big mile races, the G1 Mile Championship, the same two races the powerhouse champion Maurice won before taking this prize in 2015; two-time G1 winner Admire Mars, the G1-winning filly Normcore and the top-class Persian Knight are also selected for Japan. Ireland’s Circus Maximus represents the best European mile form, having won the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes and G1 Prix du Moulin this year.

Hong Kong Sprint

Mr Stunning has peaked for the last two editions of this race and will attempt to become the Hong Kong Sprint’s first three-time winner. But he faces the flash new kid on the Hong Kong sprinting block, Aethero, who will attempt to become the first Southern Hemisphere-bred three-year-old to win a G1 at the HKIR: the chestnut, sensational when winning the recent G2 Jockey Club Sprint (1200m), has drawn comparisons to past champion Able Friend. The outstanding line-up includes plenty of other top-class contenders too: the talented grey Hot King Prawn is back from a setback and is a G2 winner of untapped potential at this level, while Hong Kong’s champion sprinter Beat The Clock is in, as is D B Pin, runner-up in the past two editions.

Japan’s Danon Smash and Australia’s In Her Time provide the overseas challenge. The former is a three-time G3 winner who has posted smart efforts in Japan’s two G1 sprints this year, placing fourth in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) and third in the Sprinters Stakes (1200m). In Her Time has won the G1 Galaxy and G1 Black Caviar Lightning and was a fine third in the G1 Darley Sprint Classic (1200m) last time.

Hong Kong Vase

Exultant has proven to be one of the world’s top stayers since winning last year’s Vase, which saw subsequent Cox Plate winner Lys Gracieux in second place and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Waldgeist in fifth. Hong Kong’s champion stayer is set to face another tough line-up with Japan and Europe offering strong contenders.

Anthony Van Dyck is set to become the first Derby (English) winner to contest the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase. The Ballydoyle-trained colt is selected alongside well-regarded stablemate Mount Everest who missed most of this year but returned in the autumn to run a promising sixth in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf. The British raiders are Aspetar, winner of the G1 Preis von Europa, Prince Of Arran who has made the frame in the past two renewals of the G1 Melbourne Cup, and the well-regarded G3 winner Young Rascal.

Japan has some of its best fillies and mares slated to take on Exultant: Deirdre, runner-up in the Hong Kong Cup last year, has been a marvel on her travels this year and won the G1 Nassau Stakes; Lucky Lilac won the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Kyoto last time; G1 Yushun Himba winner Loves Only You met her first defeat in five starts when third that day; Glory Vase is a G2-winning and G1-placed stayer.

Hong Kong Cup

Japan’s Fillies’ Triple Crown winner in 2018 and standout champion with eight wins from 10 career starts; brilliant G1 Tenno Sho Autumn win latest.

ALMOND EYE - JPN
Japan’s Fillies’ Triple Crown winner in 2018 and standout champion with eight wins from 10 career starts; brilliant G1 Tenno Sho Autumn win latest.

G1 Queensland Derby winner pre-import; course and distance winner and thereabouts in Hong Kong’s 4yo Classic Series last term.

DARK DREAM - HK
G1 Queensland Derby winner pre-import; course and distance winner and thereabouts in Hong Kong’s 4yo Classic Series last term.

G1 Queensland Derby winner pre-import; G2 Jockey Club Cup win last year when also fourth in G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.

EAGLE WAY - HK
G1 Queensland Derby winner pre-import; G2 Jockey Club Cup win last year when also fourth in G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase.

Progressive 3yo filly who followed a win in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont, USA with second in G2 Prix du Conseil de Paris.

EDISA - FR
Progressive 3yo filly who followed a win in the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont, USA with second in G2 Prix du Conseil de Paris.

Hong Kong’s top four-year-old last year with wins in Hong Kong Classic Mile and BMW Hong Kong Derby; 2nd to Exultant in G2 Jockey Club Cup latest.

FURORE - HK
Hong Kong’s top four-year-old last year with wins in Hong Kong Classic Mile and BMW Hong Kong Derby; 2nd to Exultant in G2 Jockey Club Cup latest.

Front-running winner of G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup last year and fourth to Win Bright in April’s G1 FWD QEII Cup.

GLORIOUS FOREVER - HK
Front-running winner of G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup last year and fourth to Win Bright in April’s G1 FWD QEII Cup.

Four-time G1 winner and Ireland’s top filly with top level wins in Tattersalls Gold Cup, Irish Champion Stakes and Champion Stakes this season.

MAGICAL - IRE
Four-time G1 winner and Ireland’s top filly with top level wins in Tattersalls Gold Cup, Irish Champion Stakes and Champion Stakes this season.

16 G1 starts in six countries for 11 top-four finishes including a last start win in the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington, Australia.

MAGIC WAND - IRE
16 G1 starts in six countries for 11 top-four finishes including a last start win in the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington, Australia.

Second to Exultant in G1 Champions & Chater Cup last season; ended Beauty Generation’s win streak in G2 handicap first-up this term and fourth to Exultant in G2 Jockey Club Cup latest.

RISE HIGH - HK
Second to Exultant in G1 Champions & Chater Cup last season; ended Beauty Generation’s win streak in G2 handicap first-up this term and fourth to Exultant in G2 Jockey Club Cup latest.

In and out performer but capable when things fall right; won 2017 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup and 2018 G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m)

TIME WARP - HK
In and out performer but capable when things fall right; won 2017 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup and 2018 G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m)

Career peak win at course and distance in G1 FWD QEII Cup last April when displayed a strong turn-of-foot.

WIN BRIGHT - JPN
Career peak win at course and distance in G1 FWD QEII Cup last April when displayed a strong turn-of-foot.

Hong Kong Mile

Winner of five from eight races including the G1 Futurity Stakes as a 2yo last year and this year’s G1 NHK Mile Cup for 3yo.

ADMIRE MARS - JPN
Winner of five from eight races including the G1 Futurity Stakes as a 2yo last year and this year’s G1 NHK Mile Cup for 3yo.

World’s top-rated miler and two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year with seven G1 wins including last two runnings of this race - mile track record holder at Sha Tin.

BEAUTY GENERATION - HK
World’s top-rated miler and two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year with seven G1 wins including last two runnings of this race - mile track record holder at Sha Tin.

Among the best milers in Europe with G1 wins in St James’s Palace Stakes and Prix du Moulin.

CIRCUS MAXIMUS - IRE
Among the best milers in Europe with G1 wins in St James’s Palace Stakes and Prix du Moulin.

Hardy and consistent galloper on the Hong Kong circuit with six wins from 39 starts in lesser grade.

CITRON SPIRIT - HK
Hardy and consistent galloper on the Hong Kong circuit with six wins from 39 starts in lesser grade.

Japan’s standout miler this year, winning the G1 Yasuda Kinen and G1 Mile Championship, just as Maurice did before winning this race in 2015.

INDY CHAMP - JPN
Japan’s standout miler this year, winning the G1 Yasuda Kinen and G1 Mile Championship, just as Maurice did before winning this race in 2015.

A top Hong Kong 4yo last term and mixing it with the best this season including when second to Waikuku in G2 Jockey Club Mile.

KA YING STAR - HK
A top Hong Kong 4yo last term and mixing it with the best this season including when second to Waikuku in G2 Jockey Club Mile.

G1 breakthrough in May in the G1 Victoria Mile for fillies and mares, returned from summer break with a warm-up win in October’s G3 Fuji Stakes (1600m).

NORMCORE - JPN
G1 breakthrough in May in the G1 Victoria Mile for fillies and mares, returned from summer break with a warm-up win in October’s G3 Fuji Stakes (1600m).

Latest win was in 2017 G1 Mile Championship; was second in that race last year before fifth in Hong Kong Mile and ran third this year.

PERSIAN KNIGHT - JPN
Latest win was in 2017 G1 Mile Championship; was second in that race last year before fifth in Hong Kong Mile and ran third this year.

G3 winner last term whose only two attempts in G1 brought 4th in Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) and 3rd in FWD Champions Mile (1600m).

SIMPLY BRILIANT - HK
G3 winner last term whose only two attempts in G1 brought 4th in Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) and 3rd in FWD Champions Mile (1600m).

Rapid progress last season and ran second in BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m); improved to win G2 Jockey Club Mile latest with Beauty Generation third.

WAIKUKU - HK
Rapid progress last season and ran second in BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m); improved to win G2 Jockey Club Mile latest with Beauty Generation third.

Three wins from six starts this year including two G3 successes; well behind the impressive Benbatl when third in G2 Joel Stakes latest.

ZAAKI - GB
Three wins from six starts this year including two G3 successes; well behind the impressive Benbatl when third in G2 Joel Stakes latest.

Hong Kong Sprint

Unbeaten all three starts as a 2yo last term, lowered Sacred Kingdom’s 1000m Sha Tin track record this season and beat the best in G2 Jockey Club Sprint.

AETHERO - HK
Unbeaten all three starts as a 2yo last term, lowered Sacred Kingdom’s 1000m Sha Tin track record this season and beat the best in G2 Jockey Club Sprint.

Hong Kong champion sprinter with G1 wins in Chairman’s Sprint Prize and Centenary Sprint Cup and never out of first three in 22 career starts.

BEAT THE CLOCK - HK
Hong Kong champion sprinter with G1 wins in Chairman’s Sprint Prize and Centenary Sprint Cup and never out of first three in 22 career starts.

G1 winner at the course and distance and runner-up in the last two editions of this race, returned from injury with a fine sixth in G2 Jockey Club Sprint latest.

D B PIN - HK
ThG1 winner at the course and distance and runner-up in the last two editions of this race, returned from injury with a fine sixth in G2 Jockey Club Sprint latest.

Multiple G3 winner and thereabouts in Japan’s G1 sprints this season including third in the Sprinters Stakes.

DANON SMASH - JPN
Multiple G3 winner and thereabouts in Japan’s G1 sprints this season including third in the Sprinters Stakes.

Won first five career starts last term and has since added a G3 handicap win at 1000m, closed to fourth from a wide draw in recent G2 Jockey Club Sprint.

FULL OF BEAUTY - HK
Won first five career starts last term and has since added a G3 handicap win at 1000m, closed to fourth from a wide draw in recent G2 Jockey Club Sprint.

Hong Kong’s rising star sprinter this time last year but ninth as favourite in this race; unraced rest of season after colic surgery but returned to run second in recent G2 Jockey Club Sprint.

HOT KING PRAWN - HK
Hong Kong’s rising star sprinter this time last year but ninth as favourite in this race; unraced rest of season after colic surgery but returned to run second in recent G2 Jockey Club Sprint.

Won the 2018 G1 Galaxy and 2019 Black Caviar Lightning and posted another top-class effort when third in the G1 Darley Sprint Classic last time.

IN HER TIME - AUS
Won the 2018 G1 Galaxy and 2019 Black Caviar Lightning and posted another top-class effort when third in the G1 Darley Sprint Classic last time.

Hong Kong’s champion sprinter two seasons ago, springing off a Class 2 win at Happy Valley to win the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize but below that form since.

IVICTORY - HK
Hong Kong’s champion sprinter two seasons ago, springing off a Class 2 win at Happy Valley to win the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize but below that form since.

Career best fourth in this race last year and ended campaign with success in a G3 handicap at the course and distance.

LITTLE GIANT - HK
Career best fourth in this race last year and ended campaign with success in a G3 handicap at the course and distance.

Shooting for a hat-trick after winning the last two editions of this race and returned from a stress fracture to finish a fair eighth in G2 Jockey Club Sprint latest.

MR STUNNING - HK
Shooting for a hat-trick after winning the last two editions of this race and returned from a stress fracture to finish a fair eighth in G2 Jockey Club Sprint latest.

Mile/seven-furlong winner who switched to sprinting last term and won a 1200m G2 before placing second in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize at the track and trip.

RATTAN - HK
Mile/seven-furlong winner who switched to sprinting last term and won a 1200m G2 before placing second in the G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize at the track and trip.

Won first four starts - all at 1200m - including impressive first-up score this term in Class 1 but disappointed when down the field in G2 Jockey Club Sprint latest.

REGENCY LEGEND - HK
Won first four starts - all at 1200m - including impressive first-up score this term in Class 1 but disappointed when down the field in G2 Jockey Club Sprint latest.

A leading miler and won G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) in 2018 before form dipped; revitalised at 1200m this term and won G2 Premier Bowl Handicap last time.

SEASONS BLOOM - HK
A leading miler and won G1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) in 2018 before form dipped; revitalised at 1200m this term and won G2 Premier Bowl Handicap last time.

Smart sprinter with six wins from 22 starts and always thereabouts in Pattern races; only previous G1 attempt resulted in seventh in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan.

WISHFUL THINKER - HK
Smart sprinter with six wins from 22 starts and always thereabouts in Pattern races; only previous G1 attempt resulted in seventh in the Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan.

Hong Kong Vase

Won the G1 Derby at Epsom in June; no win in four since but followed a sound third in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes with a somewhat unlucky third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

ANTHONY VAN DYCK - IRE
Won the G1 Derby at Epsom in June; no win in four since but followed a sound third in the G1 Irish Champion Stakes with a somewhat unlucky third in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Matured into a top-class galloper this term with wins in the G2 Grand Prix de Chantilly and G1 Preis von Europa.

ASPETAR - GB
Matured into a top-class galloper this term with wins in the G2 Grand Prix de Chantilly and G1 Preis von Europa.

Stout G1-placed stayer with wins this term in the G2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier and latterly the G3 Prix Gladiateur.

CALLED TO THE BAR - FR
Stout G1-placed stayer with wins this term in the G2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier and latterly the G3 Prix Gladiateur.

Top-class globe-trotting mare who was runner-up in the G1 Hong Kong Cup last year; raced in Europe this summer for a win in the G1 Nassau Stakes.

DEIRDRE - JPN
Top-class globe-trotting mare who was runner-up in the G1 Hong Kong Cup last year; raced in Europe this summer for a win in the G1 Nassau Stakes.

Hong Kong’s champion middle distance/stayer last term with three G1 wins. Defeated Lys Gracieux in thriller for this contest in 2018 and impressive in G2 win latest.

EXULTANT - HK
Hong Kong’s champion middle distance/stayer last term with three G1 wins. Defeated Lys Gracieux in thriller for this contest in 2018 and impressive in G2 win latest.

G2-winning stayer and placed second in the G1 Tenno Sho Spring over two miles in April.

GLORY VASE - JPN
G2-winning stayer and placed second in the G1 Tenno Sho Spring over two miles in April.

Progressed through the ranks to become a smart 4yo last term - fifth in BMW Hong Kong Derby - and ended the campaign with G3 handicap victory over 2400m.

HO HO KHAN - HK
Progressed through the ranks to become a smart 4yo last term - fifth in BMW Hong Kong Derby - and ended the campaign with G3 handicap victory over 2400m.

Won first four starts including G1 Yushun Himba (Oaks) and ran with plenty of credit first time against older fillies and mares when third in G1 QEII Cup at Kyoto latest.

LOVES ONLY YOU - JPN
Won first four starts including G1 Yushun Himba (Oaks) and ran with plenty of credit first time against older fillies and mares when third in G1 QEII Cup at Kyoto latest.

Won first four career starts but no match for Almond Eye when placed in first two fillies’ classics in 2018; hit new peak with last start win in G1 QEII Cup at Kyoto.

LUCKY LILAC - JPN
Won first four career starts but no match for Almond Eye when placed in first two fillies’ classics in 2018; hit new peak with last start win in G1 QEII Cup at Kyoto.

High in the Ballydoyle pecking order of possible Derby candidates as a 2yo; not seen again until this autumn when won Listed race and sixth in G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

MOUNT EVERST - IRE
High in the Ballydoyle pecking order of possible Derby candidates as a 2yo; not seen again until this autumn when won Listed race and sixth in G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Classy stayer and world traveller, British-trained but two-time G3 winner in Australia and placed third and second in last two Melbourne Cups.

PRINCE OF ARRAN - GB
Classy stayer and world traveller, British-trained but two-time G3 winner in Australia and placed third and second in last two Melbourne Cups.

Two-time SIN G1 Kranji Mile winner, third in last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile and placed in last two runnings of G1 FWD Champions Mile - untried beyond 2000m.

SOUTHERN LEGEND - HK
Two-time SIN G1 Kranji Mile winner, third in last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong Mile and placed in last two runnings of G1 FWD Champions Mile - untried beyond 2000m.

Started out as a National Hunt horse and has two wins over hurdles at home in Ireland; switched to flat and five wins since include a G3 handicap at Flemington latest.

TRUE SELF - IRE
Started out as a National Hunt horse and has two wins over hurdles at home in Ireland; switched to flat and five wins since include a G3 handicap at Flemington latest.

Three-time G3 winner whose only defeat as a 3yo in 2018 came when seventh in the Derby; below par two starts early this year but gelded and returned for easy Listed win earlier this month.

YOUNG RASCAL - GB
Three-time G3 winner whose only defeat as a 3yo in 2018 came when seventh in the Derby; below par two starts early this year but gelded and returned for easy Listed win earlier this month.