Early in the morning on December 13th, while many racing fans in the U.S. were asleep, a terrific series of four group I races were held at Sha Tin racecourse in Hong Kong. These were the Hong Cup Vase, Hong Kong Sprint, Hong Kong Mile, and Hong Kong Cup, and while participation from U.S.-based runners was slim, the races featured a number of well-known international runners that made for an exciting day of racing. Here are the replays of each race, along with quick recaps of what happened!
Flintshire, twice runner-up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) and also runner-up in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. I), was full expected to triumph in the twelve-furlong Hong Kong Vase. But while he produced his usual strong finish in the homestretch, he was out-kicked in the final furlong by the three-year-old Highland Reel, who edged away to win impressively. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Highland Reel is a familiar face to U.S. racing fans, as he won the Secretariat Stakes (gr. I) at Arlington Park earlier this year.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. I) winner Mongolian Saturday and third-place finisher Green Mask were both entered in the Hong Kong Sprint, but neither produced their best runs as the Hong Kong-based Peniaphobia won in gate-to-wire fashion over favored Gold-Fun, another Hong Kong runner. Mongolian Saturday fared best of the American runners, finishing fifth after going a bit wide coming off the turn, while Green Mask finished eighth.
The amazing Able Friend was favored to win the Hong Kong Mile for the second straight year, but while he produced an impressive turn-of-foot in the homestretch, he couldn’t quite seal the deal and wound up finishing a close third as the Japanese raider Maurice claimed victory under top jockey Ryan Moore.
The ten-furlong Hong Kong Cup yielded by far the most surprising result of the evening as Japan’s A Shin Hikari triumphed at the impressive odds of 30-1. Defending winner Designs On Rome could only manage a fourth-place finish, while the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Eng-I) winner Free Eagle finished at the back of the pack.
J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin's quest to become North America's richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.