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Jockeys reminded that life can be tough when Joao is in town

Steve Moran | 17.11.2018

Hong Kong racing is gearing up for tomorrow’s international trial races, the return of the messiah Joao Moreira and the release, next Wednesday, of the invited runners for the
international meeting on December 9.

The Jockey Club Sprint, Mile and Cup – previously known as the International Trials – are significant to the main event and the Hong Kong Jockey Club is likely to announce around

15 international visitors during the coming week.

Prince Of Arran and Latrobe come via Australia en-route elsewhere, rather than returning to Australia, which remains impracticable, while it’s been reported that high class Japanese

duo Sungrazer and Deirdre are bound for the Hong Kong Cup.

Several Europeans will arrive for the Vase as usual and the Mile may feature runners via the Breeders’ Cup.

Deirdre’s credentials are much enhanced following her Fuchu Himba Stakes win, on October 13, beating subsequent Grade 1 winner Lys Gracieux, whom Moreira partnered in her Queen Elizabeth II Cup win last Sunday. Moreira rode five on the day, with Cristian Demuro and Christophe Lemaire riding three apiece.

That left one race, the last as it was, for a local jockey and that’s a familiar tale. Lemaire and Demuro’s brother Mirco have been feasting in Japan over the past two years, with an

aggregate of just on 700 winners between them. Lemaire will repeat his championship win of last year with his mounts earning more than US$30 million each year.

Thus, to digress, it’s perhaps no great shock that the Japan Racing Association baulked at granting Moreira a full-time licence at the first time of asking.

Back to Hong Kong and Sungrazer, with that man Moreira aboard, was runner-up to Rey De Oro in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) on October 28, which is well and truly an established

form reference for the Hong Kong Cup.

Most of the better credentialled local HKIR hopes, including a raft who originally raced in Australia or Europe, will compete tomorrow.

Moreira rides on a visiting permit and again on International day unless his application to return permanently as John Size’s stable rider is ratified in the interim. He replaces

Sam Clipperton on Hot King Prawn in the Jockey Club Sprint and unseats Chad Schofield on Glorious Forever in the Jockey Club Cup. Life can be tough when Joao’s around.

These two horses are certainly high on the list of the most interesting runners on the card, a pair of four-year-olds who could well be the most celebrated horses in Hong Kong over the next 12 months.

Hot King Prawn, from Torryburn Stud, is one of the eight Australasian-bred runners in the Sprint and can improve his record to nine wins from ten starts. He has to overcome a 2.7kg disadvantage at the weights against the Makybe Racing & Breeding-bred Mr Stunning, who won this race last year and the international grand final, the Hong Kong Sprint. I fancy he will prevail from Mr Stunning and stablemates Beat The Clock and Ivictory (for an all Aushorse quartet).

Glorious Forever has to overcome twice the weight swing against his older brother Time Warp in the Cup and that may be insurmountable. Both are front-runners – drawn side by side – and their respective trainers Frankie Lor and Tony Cruz are insistent their horses need to lead. The race just might unfold for the closers – in particular Exultant and Eagle Way and

perhaps Gold Mount and Werther, who excels second-up. Not to mention Pakistan Star, should he consent to do his best.

Both Exultant and Gold Mount were sold to Hong Kong after competing at Royal Ascot and both head towards the 2400 metre Vase on International day. This may see them highly

competitive, rather than winning, but Exultant has the best of weights here and will carry a few dollars of mine.

Trainer Richard Gibson bought Gold Mount, who won the King George V Stakes when named Primitivo, for Hong Kong but lost the horse to Tony Cruz before he raced in his new home. The gelding then found his way back to Gibson after his last campaign and this is his second run for the ‘new’ stable.

The Jockey Club Mile looks at the mercy of Beauty Generation, who’s won seven of his past ten starts and is now officially rated the world’s best specialist miler. Singapore Sling ran extremely well behind him when resuming but meets him about 5kg worse. However, he may well have taken the greater improvement and could spring a surprise.

The feature races in Hong Kong are invariably fascinating given the usual progress from a handicap to set weights and penalties and then, ultimately, to a level weights conclusion. Tomorrow provides a great test of the importance of relative weights which, in my view, are just one factor in the race outcome equation and by no means definitive. If they were, we’d all be retired.

The races will provide clues to December 9. Ten of the past 12 Hong Kong Mile winners have come through this race – such has been the continued strength of the Hong Kong Mile division.

The Jockey Club Sprint has provided 11 of the past 16 winners of the December final, while five of the past seven Hong Kong Cup winners have come via the Jockey Club Cup. The two exceptions contested the Tenno Sho (Autumn), which is a positive pointer for Sungrazer.

As to next month’s challengers coming via Australia, there are reasonable precedents to support any case for Latrobe and A Prince Of Arran. The higher standard of opposition, however, may be the roadblock.

Irish Derby winner Latrobe ventures north after his narrow defeat in the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington last Saturday. Alcopop (2012) and Side Glance (2013) graduated from Mackinnon Stakes wins to finish third and fifth respectively in the Hong Kong Cup.

British stayer A Prince Of Arran progresses to the Hong Kong Vase after his win in the Lexus Stakes and sound third in the Melbourne Cup. Dunaden (2011) and Red Cadeaux (2012) are past Hong Kong Vase winners who ventured here after competing during the Melbourne spring carnival – each having contested the Melbourne Cup.

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