Hong Kong Hopes to Lure Best in U.S.

Hong Kong is working hard to recruit the best U.S. runners to Hong Kong in December.

The numbers are up across the board and there’s even the tease that the best horse in the world, American racer Curlin, might turn up to wow the fans at the Cathay Pacific International Races in Hong Kong on Dec. 14.

Jockey Club executive director of racing, Bill Nader, has been pursuing a nomination from Curlin’s connections for most of the year, though no decision on a participation will be made until after Saturday’s US$5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.

At the close of first nominations, the Jockey Club has announced receipt of 300 nominations — including 80 individual group or grade I winners apart from Curlin — from a record 19 racing jurisdictions.

Complete list of nominations are here. (.pdf format)

Last year the figures were 287 entries, 69 group or grade I winners and 17 separate jurisdictions.

"The exceptional quality and diversity of this year’s nominations for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races supports our belief that the meeting has genuinely developed into the Turf World Championships," Nader said Oct. 20.

"Its global appeal continues to grow and extends this time to horses from the Czech Republic and Hungary.

"Across the Atlantic, we are hopeful of a strong representation from horses trained in United States given the six-week gap, the maximum possible, between the Breeders’ Cup and the highlight of our season taking place, as always, on the second Sunday in December," he said.

Nader will attend the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships [Oct. 24-25] and will be on the spot in bid to convert those nominations into appearances.

Once again, the Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) is shaping up as the race of the day, with Sacred Kingdom being aimed at defending his crown despite a physical setback that prevented him travelling to the Sprinters Stakes in Japan on Oct. 5.

The race will be a true global championship, with Europe’s two gun sprinters — France’s Marchand d’Or and the unbeaten Hungarian flyer Overdose — matching it with Australia’s bald-faced assassin, Apache Cat and South Africa’s best sprinter since National Currency, JJ The Jet Plane.

Doctor Dino’s trainer Richard Gibson has again targeted his star middle-distance galloper at the HK$14 million Hong Kong Vase (HK-I), having triumphed against the odds 12 months ago.

Ireland’s training ace Aidan O’Brien has nominated runaway Irish Derby winner and Arc de Triomphe placegetter Soldier Of Fortune, and there are also entries from English St Leger heroes, Conduit and Sixties Icon.

Japan’s 2006 Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) winner Delta Blues has also been nominated for the 2,400 metre race, as has AJC Australian Derby winner and Caulfield Cup (both group Is) runner-up Nom Du Jeu.

The Hong Kong Mile (HK-I) will again be the early-season target for reigning Horse of the Year Good Ba Ba, prepared by Andreas Schutz. International entries for the Mile are headed by 2007 Breeders’ Cup Mile champion Kip Deville, Europe’s highest-rated miler, Raven’s Pass, and fellow British star Paco Boy.

Curlin may head the club’s Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) wish list, but a more probable attendee is Japan’s champion filly Vodka, winner of the Tokyo Yushun (Japan Derby, Jpn-I) in 2007 and victorious over Hong Kong’s Armada in the Yasuda Kinen in June.

Viva Pataca will be back for a third tilt at the race, having been unluckily nosed out by Godolphin’s Ramonti last year. Archipenko, dashing winner of the Audemars Piguet QE-II Cup (HK-I) at the course and distance earlier in April, will be brought back by globe-trotting trainer Mike de Kock in a bid to emulate Vengeance of Rain’s Sha Tin group I double of 2005.

Final invitations will be confirmed on Wednesday, Nov. 26, following the running of the three International Trial races at Sha Tin.