Sprinters seek to shine on LONGINES HKIR stage

Graham Cunningham

28/11/2023 10:00

International raiders are heading back to the LONGINES Hong Kong International races in force this December and, whisper it softly, some people are suggesting there has never been a better time to aim at four G1 races worth a combined HK$118m.

It seems safe to assume that freedom to travel, record prize money and a sense that the home team is reliant on a small core of stars have all played a part in attracting this year’s visitors.

And, as this first ‘Guide to the 2023 Global Raiders’ illustrates, the international challenge for this year’s Sprint includes several fascinating contenders:

Princess seeking history in LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint

The impressive winning style of Highfield Princess.
The impressive winning style of Highfield Princess.


Highfield Princess (John Quinn)

International Rating - 117

The list of world-class turf races without a European winner on their roll of honour is short and the Hong Kong Sprint sits very close to the top of it. Perhaps Sha Tin’s fast surface is against the Euros or maybe the need to glide round an unfamiliar bend at pushing 40mph is a factor.

Either way, over 30 Europeans have tried and failed since this race became a G1 in 2002. And, if that statistic doesn’t concern you, consider also that no filly or mare has ever won the Hong Kong Sprint.

But Highfield Princess hasn’t read the record books and Europe’s most accomplished sprinter – with four G1 wins in three countries – travels in fine form after defying a wide gate over 1000m in Longchamp’s Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.

Speed and courage are her key assets. And, though history sounds a couple of alarming notes, this hugely popular and much travelled mare brings a stronger profile to the Sha Tin showdown than many who came before her.


Mad Cool (Manabu Ikezoe)

International Rating – 115

Lord Kanaloa wins in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint.
Lord Kanaloa wins in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint.

Japanese horses can thrive in the heat of Hong Kong’s biggest 1200m test – witness Danon Smash and dual winner Lord Kanaloa – and Mad Cool earned his 115 rating for a strong-finishing second, beaten a nose, in the G1 Sprinters Stakes last month.

Lord Kanaloa won the Sprinters Stakes prior to both his HKIR wins, while Danon Smash finished second in the Nakayama contest before his Sha Tin success in 2020.

Few would suggest that Mad Cool is in the same class as the brilliant Lord Kanaloa but his recent form puts him on a par with Danon Smash – and he heads abroad for the first time in the form of his life.


Aesop’s Fables (Aidan O’Brien)

International Rating - 112

On the plus side, he represents Aidan and Ryan Moore following career-best placed efforts in G1 company at Longchamp and Santa Anita.

But this colt is 0-6 at elite level and has finished behind Highfield Princess in all their three meetings this season.

The Aesop’s Fables of Greek legend often involved fabulous feats performed by animal characters – but it takes a vivid imagination to picture Sha Tin success for Aidan’s latest HKIR contender.


Jasper Krone (Hideyuki Mori)

International Rating – 110

Victor The Winner looks the likely early leader in this year’s Hong Kong Sprint but he ought to have company round the home turn as Jasper Krone’s connections insist that going forward is “definitely his best way of racing.”

The freewheeling four-year-old has had a good year, winning a couple of G3 handicaps, and he showed bright speed again when fourth in the Sprinters Stakes.

However, Jasper Krone raced awkwardly when finishing last in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. Perhaps returning to a right-handed track will suit him. It surely needs to if he’s to play more than a minor role.

Graham Cunningham

Graham Cunningham chose a career in racing ahead of the law thirty years ago and has never regretted it for a moment.

Nine years with the world-renowned Timeform organization paved the way for a lengthy spell as a reporter and columnist in various newspapers, starting with the Sporting Life and followed by the Racing Post and the London Evening Standard.

Graham also spent a more than a decade on television in the UK as a lead analyst for Racing UK and Channel 4 but moved to Hong Kong early in 2017 and was once employed as Senior Racing Media Content Specialist for the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

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