Val Royal, winning the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Val Royal, winning the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Mike Corrado

Val Royal, Sunline Head Hong Kong International Cast

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has announced that 40 horses from nine different countries have made the final cut for the four group races that will be contested at Sha Tin Racecourse on Dec. 16.

Included among the top horses scheduled to compete in the Hong Kong International races are this year's Breeders' Cup Mile winner Val Royal as well as three winners of International races last year who are back to defend their titles.

In the Hong Kong Sprint, recently upgraded to group II status, U.S.-based Caller One will face a field that includes fellow American runner Morluc and Falvelon, who is seeking his second consecutive victory in the five-furlong race he won last year. Nuclear Debate, recently purchased by new connections and now trained by Darrel Vienna, will be making his third attempt to win the Sprint. The race has a value of $HK$8-million (about US$1.02 million).

Multiple grade I winners With Anticipation and White Heart are the American entries in the Hong Kong Vase (group I, 1 1/2 miles, HK$14-million, about US$1.8-million), which has also drawn last year's winner, Daliapour. Other international competitors in the race include Ethereel, the New Zealand mare who recently completed the Melbourne and Caulfield Cup double, as well as Japan's Stay Gold, who bested eventual Breeders' Cup Turf winner Fantastic Light in last spring's Dubai Sheema Classic in the United Arab Emirates.

Last year's scintillating duel between Sunline and Fairy King Prawn in the Mile (group I, 1 mile, HK$14-million, about US$1.8-million) as both horses return for the 2001 renewal. Seeking to upset those two are Forbidden Apple, second in the Breeders' Cup Mile, and Godolphin Racing's Sickly.

In the Hong Kong Cup (group I, 1 1/4 miles, HK$18-million, about US$2.3-million), Val Royal faces stiff competition from Arlington Million winner Silvano, the 1999 winner Jim and Tonic and Japanese champion Agnes Digital. Europe's two top stables will also be represented in the Cup, with Godolphin sending out Tobougg and Bach carrying the Ballydoyle colors.