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Hong Kong Cup & Vase previews

I love the big international race meetings when different formlines converge from around the world. Some are fresh, some have had long, arduous campaigns. Is the local form better than the European form or the Australian form? It's what makes this meeting in Hong Kong so great to bet on. On hand to preview the first two of the big four races is international racing connoisseur Jon Thompson, @jaytee6666, who just happens to be in Honkers this week.


Longines International Meeting – Sha Tin – 09.12.12

Hong Kong hosts the International meeting on Sunday with a whole host of European stars on show looking to take home the lucrative prize money of offer. Those looking to escape from the rains in Europe however will be disappointed with the local weather being almost as bad and a persistent wet climate for almost a month.

Last Sunday the AW track at Sha Tin sometimes looked unraceable and it was impossible to win from off the pace with the first four AW races won by front runners with some ease. The turf track should be in much better shape come Sunday with the running rail moved back to the ‘A’ position and fresh ground for the International races.

Race 4 on the 10 race card is the Longines Hong Kong Vase and this can go to the William Haggas trained Dancing Rain and start a memorable day for the visitors. Drawn well in five last year’s Epsom Oaks heroine has had an interrupted 2012 and has only been seen once on a racecourse at Ascot on QIPCO Champions Day back in October. That was a very credible run however finishing third behind Sapphire in the Fillies and Mares race after 11 months off.

Dancing Rain’s prominent racing style will be suited to the track and she can fend off the main dangers that are likely to be last year’s winner Dunaden and the Sir Michael Stoute trained Sea Moon.

Dunaden looks to defend his title after another impressive season capturing the Caulfield Cup in Australia before slightly disappointing in the Melbourne Cup 17 days later. He faces a sterner test in 2012 but looks certain to fill one of the minor placings.

Sea Moon remains a lightly raced colt who was last seen in the Arc back in October when finishing 8th of 18 runners behind the shock winner Solemia. A previous success over Dunaden will remain in the forefront of his supporters' minds but his turn of foot remains questionable and the track is not certain to suit his galloping style. SCRATCHED

Meandre and Bayrir head the challenge from France with the latter being of more interest. Another lightly-raced colt he appeared to get bogged down by conditions in the Arc last time and has the potential to reverse placings with Sea Moon as well as confirming his superiority over the seasoned campaigner Meandre.

The remainder would appear to be struggling in this class of field although old favourites Dandino and Red Cadeaux are sure to have their supporters at big odds.

1. Dancing Rain 2. Bayrir 3. Dunaden

Race 8 is the Longines Hong Kong Cup won last year by California Memory who looks to retain his crown.

Re-opposing was many people’s idea of the banker of the meeting Cirrus Des Aigles but he is now scratched.

The French trained gelding has had another tremendous season but arrives in Hong Kong a much more lightly campaigned horse than he was 12 months ago. In 2011 he had 11 previous starts before the Cup whereas this year he has only been seen out six times since his reappearance in March.

His last run was on that memorable day at Ascot when finishing runner-up to Frankel in the QIPCO Champion Stakes that he had won in 2011 defeating So You Think. But it’s not just the Frankel form that suggests Cirrus Des Aigles can turn around placing’s with California Memory. His form all year has been superb with the only slight blip when dropping back in trip in France in May.

He comes here as the highest rated horse in the race and can take home the spoils to complete a wonderful 2012 for connections.

Last year’s winner will again be popular as a locally trained runner as will Saonois be especially if Bayrir runs well earlier on the card. Another who struggled in the Arc last time Saonois should appreciate a steadier pace here and can make his finishing kick pay a reward with a minor place chance.

Giofra completes a very strong French trained challenge and represents the fillies. A surprise winner of the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket in the summer she has slightly disappointed in her last 2 starts and will be looking to get back on track under Christophe Soumillon.

Her Majesty the Queen’s runners will always attract attention in particular when its Carlton House who has struggled to live up to the hype focussed on his earlier career. Favourite for the 2011 Epsom Derby the son of Street Cry has failed to live up to expectations since his defeat on the Epsom Downs and steps back up in trip for the first time since his expensive Irish Derby defeat. It would need a return to his Dante Stakes promise for him to figure in the closing stages.

If there is a surprise package in the race then it could be Autumn Gold. Trained by Sean Woods this tremendously good looking colt was seen doing his best work in the trials on the 18th of November. Champion jockey Douglas Whyte takes the ride and will be looking for his first Hong Kong International race success since 1998.

1. Cirrus Des Aigles (SCR) 2. Saonois 3. Autumn Gold


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