Europe's top older horse Dylan Thomas has been nominated to a pair of races for this year's Cathay Pacific International Races in December.

Europe's top older horse Dylan Thomas has been nominated to a pair of races for this year's Cathay Pacific International Races in December.

Trevor Jones

Dylan Thomas, Miss Andretti Lead Cathay Nominations

The nominations for this year's Cathay Pacific International Races in Hong Kong in December boast a high quality of horses, with group I winners Dylan Thomas and Miss Andretti leading the all-star slate.

By Murray Bell 

The numbers may be down, but the quality quotient is higher than ever for this year’s Cathay Pacific International Races in Hong Kong  in December, with Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe Lucien Barriere (Fr-I) winner Dylan Thomas and runaway Global Sprint Challenge (Jpn-I) victor Miss Andretti leading an all-star nomination list.

This time a year ago, the Hong Kong Jockey Club was able to boast 322 nominations, including 79 individual group I winners. This year, those figures were 287 entries (down 10.9%) and 69 individual group I winners (down 12.7%) for the Dec. 9 program, but the club has the satisfaction of having most of the big-name horses it targeted.

Europe’s primary contender for the Cartier Horse of the Year award, Dylan Thomas, is a “live chance” of making the trip, according to Jockey Club international racing manager Mark Player. 

The club is taking a lot of encouragement from the fact trainer Aidan O’Brien double entered him in both the HK$20-million (approximately $2.58 millIon) Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup and the Vase (both HK-I), combined with the rave review O’Brien gave after his first experience at Sha Tin  last year.

Australia’s sprinting mare Miss Andretti, winner of three group Global Sprint Challenge legs so far in Melbourne and England, is a confirmed traveler as long as the Equine Influenza outbreak doesn’t hit Victoria.

“The entries for this year's Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races are exceptional and illustrate how the meeting has matured into the Turf World Championships,” said Jockey Club executive director of racing, Bill Nader.

“We have developed a 'Grand Slam' fixture in the international racing calendar, one that clearly features the world’s leading owners, trainers, jockeys, and horses as a championship event,” he added.

Results of the Breeders' Cup meeting at Monmouth Park the weekend of Oct. 26-27 will have a big bearing on the plans of a number of horses, particularly in the Hong Kong Mile (HK-I).

The winner of the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. I) will collect a $1-million bonus if successful in the Hong Kong Mile as well. With a purse of HK$16 million (approx. $2 million), the Cathay Pacific is the world’s richest turf event over 1,600 meters.

Trained by O’Brien, Excellent Art, winner of the St. James’s Palace Stakes (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot, will go up against grade I winners After Market and Kip Deville.

When the Jockey Club changed the Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) from 1,000 to 1,200 meters (about five furlongs to six furlongs) last year, and increased the purse money 20% to HK$12 million (about $1.55 million), it was rewarded with the best field in the history of the race.

One year down the track, the Sprint looks again to be one of the highlighted races of the meeting, with Miss Andretti ready to go into quarantine at Sandown Race Course with the goal of becoming the top turf sprinter for 2007.

Absolute Champion, who won that title in 2006, will be back to defend it under the tutelage of David Hall. The Marauding gelding will get his preparation under way at Sha Tin Oct. 21 in the Premier Bowl (HK-III), over the same course and distance as the Hong Kong Sprint.

Hong Kong’s two emerging sprint stars, Medic Power and Sacred Kingdom, are also headed that way, while Benbaun, third to Absolute Champion a year ago and a group I winner in his last start in France, is also scheduled to return.

Godolphin has decided to bypass the Breeders’ Cup meeting with its 2007 flag bearer Ramonti, who has been targeted toward the Hong Kong Cup, which they won with Fantastic Light in 2000.