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Mighty Mogul has the power to reinforce Ballydoyle’s global reign

The main contenders and best bets for the four Group 1 International Races

Mogul, the Grand Prix de Paris winner, has a fine chance in the Longines Hong Kong Vase
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6.00 Sunday Sha Tin

Longines Hong Kong Vase (Group 1) | 1m4f | 3yo+ | Sky

Aidan O’Brien sends arguably his strongest squad of contenders from Ballydoyle for the Hong Kong International Races and, while all are Group 1 winners, Mogul is the one whose potential appears still relatively untapped.

Like many others, this year’s rearranged race programme did him no favours, but he gets his chance to continue carving out a reputation when facing six rivals in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase, a race traditionally dominated by European runners. 

Sha Tin on Sunday card

Nevertheless, facing Exultant, he will know he has been tested, as trainer Tony Cruz has been priming the local hero for a crack at the Vase since he finished third in the same race last year.

A son of Teofilo, Exultant has thrived for Cruz in Hong Kong and has shown that these days he needs every yard of the 1m4f trip to be at his most effective. For that reason, he will want a strong gallop.

Mogul, three-year-old brother to Japan, is more versatile, and should cope with whatever shape the race takes. He finished sixth in Serpentine’s Derby at Epsom in July and was really only hitting his straps when taking Goodwood’s Gordon Stakes later that month.

His win in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris in September was promising but he was forced to miss the Arc due to Ballydoyle’s contaminated feed issue. The Grand Prix form was franked when the second In Swoop went on to fill the same place behind Sottsass in the Arc.

Ryan Moore, who has been aboard Mogul for three of his four wins, speaks in glowing terms of the Galileo colt.  “He’s a beautiful horse. It took a while for things to click with him but he’s very good.

“His run [when fifth] in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland wasn’t too bad,” he added.

Joao Moreira is reunited with Columbus County, whom he partnered to victory two starts back. He has place claims.

6.40 Sunday Sha Tin
Longines Hong Kong Sprint (Group 1) | 6f | 3yo+ | Sky

Australian runners are missing from this year’s International Races, but one of the best known horses Down Under is taking his chance in the 6f Hong Kong Sprint.

That might sound a little crazy, but Classique Legend, the horse in question, has had a change of trainer since capturing headlines worldwide in October as the winner of The Everest which, at A$15m (£8.55m), is the world’s richest race on turf.

After the victory, owner Boniface Ho got his way and had Classique Legend transferred from Les Bridge in Sydney to Caspar Fownes in Hong Kong, where Ho resides.

Fownes, who leads the trainers’ championship, has clearly been feeling a little pressure and got in first with the excuses, making the point that it has been a rushed job to get Classique Legend ready for the race.

A recent barrier trial at Sha Tin was hardly inspiring either, although his jockey Vincent Ho said galloping there on the straight course was very new to the grey sprinter, who looked a little rusty. The experience will have sharpened him, no doubt.

Classique Legend has drawn the inside gate in a capacity field of 14, which means Ho will have to make every effort to hold his ground, hopefully slotting in behind the pace. But if he gets cut out, he will be in trouble.

Hot King Prawn is a standing dish at the Hong Kong International Races

The race could be nicely set up for the John Size-trained Hot King Prawn, another grey, who showed he is in great heart by winning a Group 2 race on his latest start. It was the perfect prep for him.

Third-time lucky? Most certainly, as the gelding finished ninth in this race in 2018 and runner-up to Beat The Clock last year, and it presents Moreira with the ideal opportunity to chalk up an International winner.

Computer Patch, now the mount of Alexis Badel, looks next best.

7.50 Sunday Sha Tin
Longines Hong Kong Mile (Group 1) | 1m | 3yo+ | Sky

Hong Kong racing’s new star Golden Sixty is set to make his first appearance at the International Races a memorable one as he attempts an 11th consecutive win against the strongest field he has encountered.

The five-year-old is red-hot favourite to land the Hong Kong Mile, in which he faces the first four home in last year’s edition – Admire Mars, Waikuku, Beauty Generation and  Normcore – plus Breeders’ Cup revelation Order Of Australia and multiple Group 1 winner Romanised.

Trainer Francis Lui’s confidence in Golden Sixty has grown with each campaign, while jockey Vincent Ho believes there is still improvement to come from the gelded son of Medaglia D’Oro.

Golden Sixty wins his ninth consecutive race, the Group 2 Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap in October

Golden Sixty has already assumed Beauty Generation’s place at the top, but the latter is still running some brave races in defeat, particularly under handicap conditions and giving away lumps of weight.

Ryan Moore has come in for the ride on last year’s winner Admire Mars in the enforced absence of Christophe Soumillon due to quarantine issues, however the four-year-old has not won in three runs since last year’s success.

Waikuku has not run in 231 days, which is a bigger negative in Hong Kong than it would be in Europe, although John Size is the trainer most likely to pull it off.

As ever, the draw will play a major part, with both Zac Purton (Beauty Generation) and Ho (Golden Sixty) delighted to have drawn stalls three and seven respectively.

Beauty Generation is handed an inside draw that gives his jockey options, while Golden Sixty’s outside gate ensures he will not get trapped on the rail and can be produced on the outside, unimpeded, at the top of the straight.

The Ken Condon-trained Romanised is sailing in under the radar but is still a danger to the big names. His best form is on the good going he can expect to get at Sha Tin, while his inside gate (four) is a big advantage.

8.30 Sunday Sha Tin
Longines Hong Kong Cup (Group 1) | 1m4f | 3yo+ | Sky

Magical’s bid for greatness on a new stage may be denied by a potent Japanese challenge that remains an enduring feature of the Hong Kong International Races.

The presence of the ultra-tough mare from Ballydoyle, who has endured battles with champions Enable and Ghaiyyath and was last in in action when finishing second to compatriot Tarnawa in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland last month –her 13th consecutive Group 1 race – has lifted the meeting in these trying times, and she comes to Sha Tin attempting her eighth Group 1 triumph.

She faces six rivals, including three from Japan, in the Hong Kong Cup, over a mile and a quarter, the climax to a cracking ten-race card.

Drawing the inside rail is a definite advantage in the short run to the first turn – Magical starts from one – and having the likely pacesetter Time Warp drawn next door in stall two is also an asset. But it is what happens in the three furlongs that follow that is crucial.

These races can become tactical, and if Time Warp is not challenged and slows the pace then Magical could easily be trapped. That is the theory.

Danon Premium has a workout under William Buick in preparation for the Longines Hong Kong Cup

William Buick is likely to sit back on Danon Premium, waiting for his chance to launch in the home straight. Japan has supplied the winners of the Cup in three of the last ten years, and Danon Premium, who has rubbed shoulders with Almond Eye and Lys Gracieux, true stars of recent seasons, has the right credentials.

Win Bright, last year’s winner, seems to keep his best form for Hong Kong, where the climate and track conditions suit him best.

Joao Moreira has made a huge difference to Furore, conjuring wins from the 2019 Derby winner on both occasions he has ridden him, and he, too, looks set to run a big race.

Bets can be placed into Hong Kong pools with the Tote, Coral and Ladbrokes. The first race at Sha Tin on Sunday is at 4.25am

Read more articles about the Hong Kong International Races here:

How Hong Kong puts on the world's richest races and funds fight against Covid

Soumillon to miss Hong Kong rides after failing to satisfy Covid-19 protocols

Zac Purton fined HK$40,000 for misconduct after Covid-related tweet

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It took a while for things to click with Mogul but he’s very good
E.W. Terms