Denon Aimed at Hong Kong Cup

With hopes of him bouncing back off an eighth-place finish in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) last weekend, Fusao Sekiguchi's Denon will be sent out to represent the United States in the HK $18-million (approx. $2.3 million) Hong Kong Cup (HK-I) on Dec. 14 at Sha Tin Racecourse.

Denon was purchased by Sekiguchi in November from Edmund Gann and Flaxman Holdings specifically for the Japan Cup.

The 5-year-old, bay son of Pleasant Colony was at his best earlier this year, when he was a half-length winner of the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at a rain-soaked Belmont Park in New York on June 7. "Denon likes soft turf, and that's what he got in the Manhattan," trainer Bobby Frankel said.

In his most recent effort, though, on Nov. 30 at Tokyo Racecourse, Denon finished a fading eighth on an equally wet turf course. "We were in good position right up to the turn for home, but Denon got tired in the stretch," jockey Corey Nakatani said afterwards. "He's a much better horse than he showed today."

Which Denon will show up on Hong Kong Cup day? That a question being asked by horsemen in the U.S. and in Hong Kong. Frankel believes it will be a Denon who is ready to rumble. "Otherwise, why would we go?" Frankel said.

Without a doubt, Denon is a world-class competitor. "At his best, he can run with anybody," Frankel has said.

Denon was bred in Kentucky by the family of the late Stavros Niarchos. Denon's sire won the 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (both gr. I), was North America's champion 3-year-old that season and sired over 70 stakes winners including Pleasantly Perfect, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I). Denon's dam, Aviance, was champion 3-year-old filly in Ireland, and has also produced the champion filly Chimes of Freedom.

Denon began his racing career in France, for trainer Jonathan Pease. He won the Prix de Fontainebleau (Fr-III) in 2001 and was late-charging third in the Prix Jean Prat (Fr-I) at Chantilly.

Denon was relocated to the U.S., where he promptly won the Hollywood Derby (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park. In 2002, he was victorious in Hollywood's Charles Whittingham Handicap (gr. IT) and Belmont's Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT).

Distances at or near 1 1/4 miles appear to suit Denon well, and the 2,000-meters (approx. 1 1/4 miles) of the Cup could inspire a top performance from him. One should never dismiss the chance of any horse that Hall of Famer Frankel runs anywhere.

On Nov. 22, Frankel registered his 24th grade 1 win of the year, an all-time, single season record. Frankel has since upped his grade I victory record to 25. The victories were achieved by 14 different horses. But none of the triumphs were achieved overseas. That could change when Denon shoots for number 26 in the Hong Kong Cup.