2007 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville arrives in Hong Kong.

2007 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville arrives in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Jockey Club

Frankel, Drysdale to Hong Kong Races

Trainers among 389 conditioners pointing to Dec. 14 races.

The Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International races set a new benchmark Nov. 26 when 38 individual trainers from 10 foreign jurisdictions declared to bring their horses to compete at Sha Tin Dec. 14.

The so-called turf world championships have never looked stronger, in terms of depth and spread of representation, with Jockey Club executive director of racing Bill Nader expressing full confidence that each of the four group I features would see capacity fields of 14 horses face the starter.

A total of 39 overseas horses will jet in from around the planet for the HK$62 million extravaganza, with the first one having already arrived—2007 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) hero Kip Deville from America.

From humble beginnings in the early 1980s, the Cathay Pacific International Races is now the biggest sporting event in Hong Kong.

The races also broke new ground with four American-based trainers confirming for the big day, including five-time Eclipse award winning handler Bobby Frankel and fellow Southern California conditioner Neil Drysdale, who took the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) in 2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus .

Frankel, the champion trainer of America in 2002 and 2003, will start Brazilian-bred front-runner Out of Control in the HK$20 million Hong Kong Cup (HK-I), while Drysdale will have Artiste Royal in the same feature.

“This year we have met with an unprecedented level of interest from world-renowned horseman—an exceptional count of 38 different trainers are participating from five continents to compete in our turf world championships,” said Nader.

“And we can guarantee championship line-ups, given the presence of Breeders Cup heroes, classic winners, defending titleholders, and a whole host of group I stars from far and wide.”

The club’s international racing manager, Mark Player, said the way so many top horses had performed at Sha Tin in the past, and then recaptured form the next year elsewhere on the world stage, has changed the thinking of many overseas owners and trainers.

“The Hong Kong International Races is not just and end-of-year event, but is now being highlighted as a key target of the racing program for a large number of the world’s top horses,” Player explained. “From last year, for example, the form of Doctor Dino and Marchand d’Or has been a great advertisement for Hong Kong. (Vase winner) Doctor Dino has taken that top-class form all around the world, while Marchand d’Or has emerged from his sixth placing in the Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) to become the very best sprinter in Europe.”

Three of the 39 horses have engagements to compete overseas this weekend before making the journey to Hong Kong. They are Purple Moon and Sixties Icon (Vase; 2,400 meters)—both slated to run in Sunday’s Japan Cup (Jpn-I) in Tokyo—and Australian speed demon Apache Cat (Sprint, 1,200 meters).

Apache Cat, winner of five group I races in succession last season, is set to confront the ageing, globetrotting warrior Takeover Target over 1,200 meters at Ascot, Perth, in the Winterbottom Stakes (Aust-II). His trainer, Greg Eurell, said he must run either first or second to take his chance in Hong Kong.

The host nation will be very strong again, fielding 17 horses across the four races including Horse of the Year Good Ba Ba in the Hong Kong Mile and the brilliant Viva Pataca who will make his third attempt to wrest the Hong Kong Cup (HK-I).

Caspar Fownes ultimately decided to run Green Birdie in the Sprint rather than the Mile, while Jackpot Delight sidestepped the in-form Viva Pataca in the Cup to concentrate on the Hong Kong Vase instead.

Hong Kong’s champion trainer John Size will have three runners—Enthused in the Sprint, Armada in the Mile and Sight Winner in the Cup.