If you love high-class international horse racing, you won’t want to miss the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin Racecourse on Sunday.
Four rich prizes – the 2,400-meter Hong Kong Vase (G1), the 1,200-meter Hong Kong Sprint (G1), the 1,600-meter Hong Kong Mile (G1), and the 2,000-meter Hong Kong Cup (G1) – have drawn competitive fields stacked with talented runners from around the globe.
Japan has sent a formidable contingent to Hong Kong, and it’s not a stretch to think the Japanese shippers might sweep all four races. Their runners look particularly strong in the Mile and the Cup, the two races we’ll feature for this week’s Hong Kong spot plays:
Race 7: Hong Kong Mile (G1)
Defending Hong Kong Mile winner #1 Beauty Generation was unstoppable last season, but enters this year’s edition off two straight third-place finishers against Group 2 company. At seven years old, he seems to have lost some of his ability to kick on strongly in the homestretch.
The good news is, Beauty Generation has drawn outside of key pace rival #6 Ka Ying Star and might get a more relaxed trip this time. The bad news is, he’s facing a seriously talented opponent in #2 Indy Champ.
A star miler in Japan, Indy Champ first rose to the forefront when upsetting superstar Almond Eye in the Yasuda Kinen (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse in June. The four-year-old son of Stay Gold clocked 1,600 meters in a blistering 1:30.90 and showed tenacity to nab pace-setting Aerolithe in the final strides.
Following a summer break, Indy Champ finished a good third in his comeback run, which served as a perfect prep for the Mile Championship (G1) at Kyoto. With another strong turn of foot, Indy Champ came flying from just off the pace to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Group 1 winner Danon Premium.
The Hong Kong Mile will mark Indy Champ’s third start off a layoff, setting him up for a peak effort while racing outside of Japan for the first time. With Beauty Generation appearing vulnerable, Indy Champ can put on a show in this exciting race.
$26 to win on #2 Indy Champ
$3.90 trifecta: 2 with 1 with 3,4,6 ($11.70)
$3.90 trifecta: 2 with 3,4,6 with 1 ($11.70)
Race 8: Hong Kong Cup (G1)
Aidan O’Brien’s durable globetrotting filly #7 Magic Wand might be the most recognizable name for U.S. racing fans. She’s run 11 times this season, winning at the Group 1 level in Australia and placing in a half-dozen top-level events around the world.
But Magic Wand has been incredibly busy of late, running three times between October 26 and November 9, and she tends to be a board-hitting type more often than an outright winner. For these reasons, I’ll favor the Japanese raider #1 Win Bright.
Win Bright can be a little inconsistent, but he fired off a huge effort over this course and 2,000-meter distance in April, rallying to defeat a high-class field in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (G1). Among his beaten rivals were Hong Kong stars Exultant, Pakistan Star, and Waikuku, as well as fellow Japanese shippers Lys Gracieux and Deirdre, both international Group 1 winners in 2019.
Following a summer break, Win Bright failed to seriously threaten in two recent starts against tough company in Japan, but he wasn’t disgraced when finishing eighth behind Almond Eye in the prestigious Tenno Sho Autumn (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse. Win Bright actually crossed the wire just 1 1/4 lengths behind next-out Japan Cup (G1) winner Suave Richard.
Trainer Yoshihiro Hatakeyama has been aiming Win Bright for the Hong Kong Cup, so this capable five-year-old should be ready for a peak effort in his third start off the layoff. A win bet is certainly in order, but we’ll also play him over Magic Wand, #2 Rise High, and #6 Furore in the trifecta:
$26 to win on #1 Win Bright
$3.90 trifecta: 1 with 2,6,7 with 2,6,7 ($23.40)