Ballydoyle, O'Brien come loaded for Hong Kong International Races
With Luxembourg fronting a squad which is represented in each one of the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) on Dec. 10, it is unlikely that Aidan O'Brien will have ever arrived at the meeting with such strength in depth.
Luxembourg, who was beaten only a half-length by Auguste Rodin in attempting to defend his title in the Irish Champion (G1), leads the line in the Hong Kong Cup (G1) and is one of the highest profile runners that has been brought to Sha Tin by one of the world's foremost trainers.
"We were training him for the Champion (G1) in England and he got a foot bruise, it just held him up for a couple of weeks that's why didn't go there," O'Brien said. "Obviously it was a great run in the Irish Champion Stakes over a mile and a quarter, he's versatile we think and he likes nice ground. We're looking forward to him."
O'Brien has a record three victories in the Hong Kong Vase (G1) and this time he has nominated the filly Warm Heart, winner of the Yorkshire Oaks (G1) and Prix Vermeille (G1) and fresh from a neck defeat to Inspiral in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1).
"We were debating what we'd do, I suppose either of them could have gone either way but we just felt it was a very good run in the Irish Champion Stakes from Luxembourg," the trainer explained. "Warm Heart ran over 10 furlongs in America but she'd won her two Group 1s over a mile and a half.
"She's been very progressive, she's thrived physically, loves nicer ground, she's tactically quick and she doesn't surrender. She's been unbelievable really."
One about whom we may well hear more of in the future is Hong Kong Mile (G1)-bound Cairo, who was second to his prolific stablemate Paddington in the Irish 2000 Guineas (G1) and returned from a break over the European summer to finish a close third in a Listed race over one mile at Leopardstown in late October.
"We were hopeful he'd get into Hong Kong but he had to have a run," O'Brien said. "We were delighted with him. He obviously got a bit tired, the ground was very soft and wasn't ideal but his run before when he was second to Paddington was on nice ground and we've been very happy with his work since.
"We think he's progressed plenty. We always thought and hoped he could be a horse that could go on to a lot of those races all over the world."
The last member of a quartet due to arrive this weekend is in the Hong Kong Sprint (G1). Three-year-old Aesop's Fables has finished a narrow third in two Group 1 events over 1000 meters, behind Highfield Princess in the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp (G1) and then Nobals in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
"He's been progressive all the time. We put the blinkers on before France, we were delighted there and then he ran a stormer in America," O'Brien said.
"He's a big horse, maybe he just took a bit of time to get the hang of it. His best two runs were over five furlongs but he looks like he's been coming home well in both runs. There's every chance he should be ok over six but we'll learn a lot more about him."