AIDAN O’Brien is no stranger to success at the Longines Hong Kong International meeting and sends a three-strong team intent on plundering the riches again on Sunday, writes Declan Schuster.
Longines Hong Kong Vase (Group 1) 1m 4f
O’Brien saddles both Stone Age and Broome in the 12-furlong Vase, a race he won twice with Highland Reel in 2015 and 2017, while relying on Order Of Australia in the 10-furlong Cup.
Travelling head lad Pat Keating reported from the track on Friday: “They look well, don’t they. We’re very happy with everything so far and they’ll do something similar again tomorrow.”
The Ballydoyle handler also won the Vase in 2020 with Mogul and appears to hold a strong hand again in the Group 1 contest.
Stone Age was considered one of the yard’s top hopes for the Derby, but he could finish only sixth behind Desert Crown.
Yet he has form lines that give him decent chance against the previous winner Glory Vase in perhaps the weaker of the international contests. He was only two and three-quarter lengths behind Luxembourg in fifth in the Irish Champion Stakes followed by a creditable third in the 10-furlong Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes at Belmont and found only Godolphin’s Rebel’s Romance too good in last month’s Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.
“We were delighted with him in the Breeders’ Cup, he ran a very good race and had progressed from his previous run at Ascot,” O’Brien said. “We’ve been happy with everything we’ve seen from him since then.
“It had been on my mind to go to Hong Kong since after the Breeders’ Cup, we thought the track, trip and ground should all suit him fine, we’re all looking forward to it.”
Stable stalwart Broome is a much-travelled eight-time winner and arrives in Hong Kong for the first time. He missed a beat from the stalls when sixth in the same Breeders’ Cup contest as Stone Age.
“We were very happy with his run in America, he was a bit slow away, got back a little bit and finished off very well,” O’Brien said. “We had it in our heads that we might go to the Japan Cup, it just came maybe a week or two too early and that’s why we waited.
Glory Vase thrives in Hong Kong as he chases an unprecedented third Hong Kong Vase and looks bound to be in the finish.
The mare Win Marilyn brings the right form from Japan off her second in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Cup to Geraldina and has to be in the mix.
Godolphin’s Botanik (William Buick) was progressive before being well beaten in the Prix Dollar on Arc weekend. Senor Toba is best of the home team.
Longines Hong Kong Sprint (Group 1) 6f
Meikei Yell is a lightly raced filly with a stack of class. She’s incredibly slick on her day and pairing with James McDonald this weekend will ensure her of every chance, especially as she steps away from the wide draw.
Lucky Sweynesse is shaping as the best from the home team. He was superb last start at Group 2 level and he can take another step forward here.
Courier Wonder is better than his form suggests and an each-way bet at huge odds on him. Resistencia is next best.
Longines Hong Kong Mile (Group 1) 1m
Hong Kong champion Golden Sixty was impressive first-up and with added improvement he shapes as the one to beat. California Spangle should hold second favouritism and will be the value in the race, especially as he makes his own luck out in front. Take to lead and try to kick on with this one for trainer Tony Cruz who has a strong record here. Schnell Meister has the class to contend and Salios is next best.
Longines Hong Kong Cup (Group 1) 1m 2f
Lei Papale’s sole run in Hong Kong saw her finish a luckless sixth in this race last year. She can atone for that effort – while it will be an incredible challenge – with gate one and Joao Moreira engaged. Romantic Warrior is the local circuit’s star. He’s still not done with his rise yet and his first-up win was nothing short of impressive.
Jack d’Or is classy and is expected to figure prominently, especially from a positive gate.