Mongolian Saturday, winner of the 2015 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT), drew the 2 post in a tough international field for Sunday's Chairman's Sprint Prize (HK-I) at Sha Tin Racecourse In Hong Kong.
The draw should allow first-time rider Douglas Whyte to blast the 6-year-old Any Given Saturday gelding out to join the leaders in the 1,200-meter (six furlong) event, a leg of the Global Sprint Challenge. That however, might not be enough of an advantage in a 14-horse star-studded field.
Although the home team has a long winning streak going in this race, the challengers this year include Australia's two top sprinters, Chautauqua and Buffering. Both are group I winners at home and Buffering comes to the Chairman's Sprint Prize off a handy win in last month's Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-I) at Meydan.
Both drew well—Chautauqua in the No. 6 gate and Buffering in the 3 hole.
"I wanted 4 but 3 will do," joshed trainer Robert Heathcote, who pronounced Buffering in top shape after his travels.
Chautauqua's owner, Rupert Legh, also was happy with the draw and said his team hopes to "show the rest of the world what a great horse he is."
The Hong Kong runners include Aerovelocity, a group I winner in Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong who was saddled with the outside post; Penaphobia, winner of the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) last December and third in the Al Quoz; and Gold-Fun, who has thrived since being shortened in distance by trainer Richard Gibson.
Mongolian Saturday has raced only once since his Breeders' Cup victory at Keeneland--a respectable fifth-place showing behind Peniaphobia in December at Sha Tin. He was scratched from the Al Quoz, reportedly after shipping poorly to Dubai.
Whyte was aboard for Mongolian Saturday's final fast work on Sunday at Sha Tin and said some issues with him turning right-handed seem to have been resolved and the horse appears ready to run.
The Chairman's Sprint Prize is newly elevated to international group I status and replaces the now-discontinued KrisFlyer Sprint (Sing-I) in the Global Sprint Challenge.
Sunday's co-feature is the Champions Mile (HK-I), featuring Japanese star Maurice, who won all six of his starts last year, three of them group I events, including the Longines Hong Kong Mile (HK-I) over the course and distance. The 5-year-old son of Screen Hero bypassed Dubai and makes his 2016 debut in this event.
Godolphin sends out two challengers in the Champions Mile--Bow Creek from Australia, where he has had limited success, and Safety Check, who was sent to Hong Kong instead of running in England because he prefers firm ground. Hong Kong has seen a bounty of rain in the week leading to the race but the superb Sha Tin course can absorb a lot of water before taking a downgrade.
The remainder of the 12-horse field is locally based. Among them is Giant Treasure, a 5-year-old Mizzen Mast gelding being pointed by trainer Richard Gibson to the Diamond Jubilee (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot. "I wouldn't be surprised to see him lining up there," Gibson said of the British race. "He is up to the challenge."