A total of 49 horses was entered Thursday morning as connections, guests and media gathered at the Sha Tin Racecourse parade ring for the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) barrier draw ceremony and the event, never short of drama, produced the usual delight, resignation and stoic disappointment.The biggest reaction was reserved for local hero Lucky Nine, seeking a second successive win in the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint, who seems more often than not to pull a disadvantageous draw on the big days. An aching groan permeated the arena and trainer Caspar Fownes was once again left ruing ill-luck as owner Dr. Chang Fuk To drew the widest berth of all, the dreaded gate 12.
"It's incredible, every time I seem to cop it, but it's just one of those things and we just have to see how good this horse is now," Fownes sighed. "I can't have him any better -- he's the best he's ever been!"John Size on the other hand was more than satisfied after stable star Glorious Days was drawn in gate 3 in the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile as he seeks to confirm recent Group 2 Jockey Club Mile superiority over Hong Kong's two-time Horse of the Year, Ambitious Dragon, drawn in gate 11.
"I'm happy with that, it gives us options and we'll see how the tempo of the race develops," said Size, adding a cautionary note that, "on his day, if Ambitious Dragon puts in a big performance, he's unbeatable."The latter's trainer, Tony Millard, was unfazed by his horse's barrier.
"Number 11 doesn't matter -- he's won from a wide gate here before," Millard stated.Cirrus des Aigles heads to the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup as the world's highest-rated horse in training. Contesting the HKIR for the fourth time, and a perhaps unfortunate fifth in this race last year from gate 2, he will jump from gate 5 on Sunday.
"Five is definitely a good draw," said the six-year-old's trainer, Corine Barande-Barbe. "It will prevent him being boxed in or having to go wide, and now it will be up to Olivier (Peslier) and the horse."California Memory, one of three returning winners from the 2011 HKIR, landed the spoils in the 2000-meter Cup last year and connections were beaming after the gallant gray drew identically to 2011 in gate 1.
"It's a good sign that we've got the same gate as last year!" trainer Tony Cruz enthused.Meanwhile Her Majesty the Queen of England's representative, Carlton House, will jump alongside.
"I really like the draw in two for Carlton House -- he can sit handy along the fence with some cover," trainer Sir Michael Stoute explained.And in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase, Mikel Delzangles was delighted with his prospects after last year's winner, Dunaden, drew a similar berth to 12 months ago.
"No complaints," he stated. "We were lucky last year to draw three, and this year we have got gate 2."Hong Kong trainer John Moore, with no fewer than 11 International runners, not surprisingly came up with a mixed bag at the draw but was generally bullish about his prospects.
"On the whole I'd say we have a better team lining up on Sunday than we did last year," said Moore, who won the 2011 Hong Kong Mile with Able One. "We've had some mixed results with the numbers this morning but, on balance, I'd say we haven't done too badly."Moore said that he was confident Xtension would run well from barrier 4 in the Hong Kong Mile.
"He'll be right there early. James (McDonald) had him on speed when he won the Champions Mile and I'm sure he'll be looking to do something similar here. I'm happy with him."Moore added that he would be content to see Packing OK lead in the Mile and "run them along" from gate 9 while Packing Whiz would go back, in any case, and was not disadvantaged by drawing 10.
Many of the finest racehorses from around the globe have gathered at Sha Tin Racecourse this week to compete for honors in the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) on Sunday.
Also playing a starring role at this year's big event will be Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, while an extensive program of trackside entertainment is being organized to ensure an unforgettable racing atmosphere.
Leung Chun-ying, chief executive of the Hong Kong SAR, will attend Sunday's meeting and present the trophy for the most prestigious of the four International Group 1 races, the Hong Kong Cup. He will be joined by Kate Winslet, who will present souvenirs to the winning connections in her first visit to Sha Tin Racecourse.
There will be variety show in the Parade Ring before noon, featuring local singer Jade Kwan performing some of her all-time favorites. Popular singers Sherman Chung, Adason Lo and Ken Hung will continue to charm racing fans with live performances on the Concourse after the 3RD race.
Everyone entering Sha Tin or Happy Valley Racecourses on Sunday before the 5TH race will receive a complimentary HKIR Souvenir Cap as a free gift, while supplies last.
MezzaOne, the popular food court in the public area, will feature an international menu offering an array of dishes from around the world, including Beef Wellington with Mushroom Sauce, Roasted Lamb Rack with Rosemary Gravy, Grilled Salmon Fillet with Lemon Cream Sauce, Roasted Chicken Rolls with Black Truffle and Mushrooms, Fish Tandoori in Banana Leaf with Lamb Biryani, Grilled Pork Cutlet with Apple Puree & Wild Mushroom Sauce and Japanese Seafood Bento Box.
A wide range of trackside entertainment has also been lined-up for fans at Sha Tin Racecourse. Racing Ambassadors and the Club's Mascot will be on hand to meet and greet fans, while the Concourse area will features a series of miniature landmarks from four of the competing countries, a perfect background for souvenir photos.
Racecourse gift counters will offer a range of exclusive HKIR souvenirs, including jacket, zip hoodie and sweatshirt in the sportswear series.
Rounding the whole day off in style after the last race will be a spellbinding pyrotechnic display, lighting up the night sky in honor of the 2012 HKIR champions.