A total of 25 international Group 1 winners are among the 89 horses nominated for Hong Kong’s two international spring features, the G1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m) and the G1 Champions Mile, both staged at Sha Tin racecourse.
The AP QEII Cup on 27 April features last year’s winner Military Attack among its 55 nominations, and the horse currently rated the best 2000m turf runner on the planet – according to the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings – will have to be at his outstanding best to retain his title against strong competition from home and abroad. Six nations or jurisdictions have triumphed in the race’s 15 renewals since Audemars Piguet commenced its sponsorship in 1999, and this time the international stars nominated include such as The Fugue, Red Cadeaux, Cirrus Des Aigles, It’s A Dundeel, Shamus Award, Boban and Vercingetorix.
Among the home competition, Akeed Mofeed proved himself a world-class opponent when winning the G1 Hong Kong Cup (2000m) in December, as did Dominant with his success in the same day’s G1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m). An exciting new and relatively untapped threat also exists amongst the domestic entries in the shape of the recent HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Designs On Rome, whom his trainer John Moore rates as a bona fide international G1 competitor on a par with his former champion Viva Pataca, winner of the AP QEII Cup in 2007 and 2010.
Crack British mare The Fugue, a triple G1 winner and second in November’s G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, could head to the AP QEII Cup in a bid to avenge her arguably unlucky second-place finish in December’s G1 Hong Kong Vase (2400m), while 2012 Vase hero Red Cadeaux is also a possible British raider.
Australasian stars Boban and It’s A Dundeel, first and second in the G1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) recently, may aim to increase their impressive career G1 tallies in the renowned contest. They could be joined by Shamus Award, winner of the G1 Cox Plate (2000m) last year as well as the G1 Australian Guineas (1600m) on 1 March, who like Boban is also nominated for the Champions Mile.
South Africa’s Mike de Kock has won the AP QEII Cup twice (2006 Irridescence, 2008 Archipenko) and the trainer could bid for a third win with the hitherto unbeaten Vercingetorix, triumphant in the G1 Jebel Hatta (1800m) at Meydan on 8 March from fellow entrant, Godolphin’s Vancouverite.
French hero Cirrus Des Aigles is something of a Sha Tin regular and could attempt to better his third-place finish in December’s G1 Hong Kong Cup. Meanwhile, G1 Tenno Sho (Autumn) winner Just A Way and G1 Kikuka Sho victor Epiphaneia are among 11 nominated for the AP QEII Cup to represent Japan, successful in the past with Rulership (2012) and Eishin Preston (2002 & 2003).
Hong Kong’s talented four-year-old crop is further represented by Hong Kong Derby third Dibayani, while the five-year-old Blazing Speed proved in winning the HKG1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) in January that he is a force to reckon with – Tony Cruz’s charge is one of 21 horses engaged in both the AP QEII Cup and the Champions Mile, which takes place seven days later on 4 May.
Dan Excel earned just reward for a string of sterling performances with a battling win in last year’s G1 Champions Mile and is likely to attempt a repeat in that contest this time. The race was opened to international competition in 2005 and a Hong Kong horse has won every edition, but this year’s 55 nominations, 39 of them overseas raiders, suggests that dominance could be under threat.
South Africa has two outstanding Champions Mile entrants in the G1 winners Variety Club and Soft Falling Rain, the latter successful in the 2013 G2 Godolphin Mile in Dubai. The French classic heroine Flotilla is also engaged, as is compatriot Mshawish, winner of the G2 Zabeel Mile at Meydan from British entrant Trade Storm. Also among the nominations are the US raiders Maltes, a G1 winner in Brazil, and Si Sage.
Gordon Lord Byron may attempt to lift the prize for Ireland. The two-time G1 winner has finished fourth in the past two renewals of the G1 Hong Kong Mile, latterly behind the successful Glorious Days.
The John Size-trained Glorious Days saw off Gold-Fun to win that prestigious event in December and that Richard Gibson-trained rival, subsequently successful in the HKG1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) from Dan Excel, is likely to oppose again. The pair and the exciting four-year-old Able Friend, winner of the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile and second in the Hong Kong Derby, represent the pick of what is a classy Hong Kong contingent.
"It’s good to see so many exciting horses nominated for this year’s renewals of the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup and Champions Mile,” said William A. Nader, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing. "Not only do we have a raft of international Group 1 stars and our established local champions eyeing up the two lucrative races, we also have the added spice of the very best from what appears to be an outstanding crop of Hong Kong four-year-olds ready to step into the fray and test their mettle.
"The 25 G1 winners nominated and the 47 horses that have placed at G1 level or have won or placed in Pattern races, reflect the broad appeal of our two spring showcases with those horses spanning 10 nations or jurisdictions across five continents and representing the best form lines from both the northern and southern hemispheres.”