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Hong Kong - Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup

The April international meeting at Sha Tin mightn't be quite as big as the December meeting, but it still attracts class racehorses from around the world, which can create a bit of uncertainty in the betting markets as locals struggle to line up foreign form.

Making his blog debut is international racing aficionado Jason Lincoln, @the_racing_wiz.

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Audemars Piguet QEII Cup
Sha Tin, 2000m, Group 1.
1635 local time, 1835 AEST, 0935 BST

Form guide

Sunday at Sha Tin sees the 40th running of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes; a truly International Group 1 that boasts a rich history.

International visitors have been successful in 11 of the past 20 runnings of the Group 1 feature, with South Africa and Japan having been the most successful at three apiece. South Africa are not represented this year, but Japan has a runner as do the UK and France. Both of those Nations have been responsible for winners of the race previously, whilst the sole other International runner is from Australia. No Australian-trained horse has been successful in the race, nor have they been represented for quite some time - Grand Armee and Elvstroem two of the higher- profiled horses to have failed in Hong Kong's Autumn Championship.

Last year's winner Designs On Rome is bidding to become just the third multiple winner of the race, and the just the second to have won it back to back (Eishin Preston 2002/2003, Viva Pataca 2007/2010). Military Attack narrowly failed in his bid to win back to back QE2's last year when he was touched off by Designs On Rome in a classic renewal.

SPEED

Stablemate to Designs On Rome, Same World, will ensure they at least go along at an even speed. He has no business being in the race other to ensure it isn’t turned into a sit and kick affair so expect him to lead but not at a break-neck tempo. Helene Super Star is another pace angle, but he does have a propensity to be slow away on occasions. Military Attack and Criterion will be kicking up to use their good alleys and both should settle in the first half of the field. Blazing Speed is the horse most affected by his draw. He'd prefer to be handy but can get quite keen when racing without cover so Callan has a decision to make very early to ensure he gets best possible position. Designs On Rome is unaffected by a wide draw.

FORM and MARKET ANALYSIS

DESIGNS ON ROME - The reigning HOTY in Hong Kong got off to a slow start this campaign but he has dominated the local scene since returning to form with a slashing win in the Hong Kong Cup at the International meeting in December. Given 6 weeks off after that run, he returned in a G3 Handicap and scored a 'typical Design On Rome' victory; essentially just wanting it more than the horse next to him. He powered away to win the Gold Cup from a ‘Military Attack-less’ field before heading to Meydan for his second attempt at 2400m. Whether he gets it or not will remain up for debate for he had no hope sitting out the back in a 'pedestrianly' run race, and lost no admirers with a game fourth to Dolniya. He has put on body weight since returning to HK which is a great sign and his work has been first class.

Champion with a tremendous will to win. Huge value at the 9/4 that is currently on offer with some firms given he started 9-10f beating Military Attack and Criterion in December. Will start 'odds on' on the HK tote and is clearly the one to beat

MILITARY ATTACK - Has met Designs On Rome on 4 occasions (3-1 to DOR), gaining the nod over him in a star studded Sha Tin Trophy 1600m earlier in the season. The margins in two of the three defeats was a nose and short half head, and would quite easily have been wins against a horse with lesser courage than DOR. His most recent failure behind him was his most heavy, however, there were excuses. Jumping well from a good alley, Purton sat outside Same World through a slower than standard first and second section and appeared to have plenty in reserve on the turn, But having raced a little keen with the blinkers on early, and having not started for 10 weeks, he was found wanting and stayed on for a soundly beaten fourth. Has since trialed in good fashion and gets a plum draw.

Whereas Designs On Rome went to Dubai, this horse has been saved and set for this race. Casper has him bang on and he looks an each way pinch at the 11-2 available. Will start closer to half that in HK.

BLAZING SPEED - Very much under-rated horse who has wins over both Designs On Rome and Military Attack. His form this preparation is much better than it reads on paper. He resumed in the aforementioned Sha Tin Trophy and was a super run to finish fourth less than a length from the winner (Military Attack). He then beat that horse a head (Designs On Rome unplaced) in the G2 Jockey Club Cup before being forced to sit three- and four-wide the trip when last in December's 'big dance' to Designs On Rome. Subsequently ran a nice fourth to champion miler Able Friend, before a very unlucky third to Designs On Rome in the Gold Cup. Would never have beaten the winner but surely would have run second and finished much closer to him had Rispoli navigated clear passage between the 200-400m.

Outrageous value at the 20/1 with some firms. I would have him just about my 'on top' selection had he drawn a better gate but I am concerned about him slotting in somewhere.


CRITERION - Much improved horse since joining the Hayes/Dabernig combination prior to his third in the HK International at the end of last year. Although he was a Derby winner at three, he looked to be a rung below the very best WFA horses in Australia during the spring but has quickly put lie to that form and was one of the benchmark horses of the recent Sydney carnival. He was a great first up third in a good quality sprint race at Randwick before a game, albeit every chance, second to Real Impact in the G1 George Ryder Stks. His win last start in one of the feature races of the Sydney Autumn Championships, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick, was visually very impressive. However a few points need to be made. He is a superior wet tracker and conditions were made to order for him on that occasion, whilst it was the exact opposite for his main dangers To The World, Tosen Stardom and Adelaide who all detested the ground and ran well below their best. He beat Red Cadeaux, who by his trainer’s admission was only in that race and not the Sydney Cup (3200m) because he felt that 2000m on testing ground would see him better suited than most of his higher rated rivals, and Royal Descent - a prolific placegetter in big races who rarely wins but loves the mud. His third to Designs On Rome and Military Attack in December on firm ground show him to be a good horse regardless of the ground, but that is a better measure of his form for this particular race than what we saw last start on a surface which suited him above all others.

Started 39/1 in December and you're being asked to take 7/4 - 2/1 now. Couldn't possibly have him at that price and whilst he has drawn well and will get a good run in the race, he is no better than a 6/1 chance. To put it another way, he was 4/1 last start on his home track with track conditions A1, and now he’s away from home on firm ground in arguably a better race. No thanks.

RED CADEAUX - One of the real marvels of international racing in the past 30 years. He is a previous winner in Hong Kong having won the Vase at the International meeting in December 2012, and most recently finished 2nd in the Queen Elizabeth behind Criterion over The Championships in Sydney. He was unlucky not to have finished a little closer on that occasion but for me that isn't the right form for this race. Has never won at 10f/2000m and I can't imagine he will start on quick ground against a couple of the best horses seen in Hong Kong in recent times.

Couldn't win and is anorexic at 9/1 - 12/1, but he will give his all and hopefully can earn again for his very sporting owners.

HELENE SUPER STAR - Former UAE Derby winner when trained by Aidan O'Brien (racing as Lines of Battle) who has arguably over-achieved this year. He was only beaten 2.75L behind Blazing Speed in the Jockey Club Cup and then only 2L to Designs On Rome in the 'big dance' in December. Had his chance to beat DOR in the Centenary Vase where he received 20lbs from him, again came up short, but then ran that horse to a 1.5L second(Blazing Speed unlucky third) at level weights in the Gold Cup.

Around 80/1 with most firms which seems fair. I could certainly entertain him in place betting at around $15 but it would be a shock if he won.

SMOKING SUN - French visitor who looks to be just making up the numbers whilst getting ready for another tilt at the Singapore International Cup; a race in which he ran second last year beating home Military Attack. His run first up in the Prix d'Harcourt was awful on a surface softer than he prefers, but his overall form is short of G1 standard.

12/1 - 16/1 is far too short for mine, there are much better options at similar or better odds.

CALIFORNIA MEMORY - Great old campaigner who has unfortunately lost form altogether.

100-1 is unfortunately correct.

STAPHANOS - This is the most interesting International runner in this year’s event. He is a lightly raced 4yo son of Champion racehorse and sire Deep Impact and he comes to Hong Kong having just had the one run since winning a G3 at Tokyo back in October. His first up effort was full of merit when a 1.8L third over 1800m behind last year’s Japanese Oaks winner Nuovo Record (Harp Star second) . He was held up briefly turning for home but did best of the closers on a surface that did appear to be quite chopped out and shifting. He is a typically strapping Deep Impact colt who should be much better for the run, and for a firmer surface. He has previously shown himself to be G1 standard in Japan by running a game 2.3L fifth in the Japanese 2000 Guineas to Isla Bonita, and a 1.5L fourth to Isla Bonita in a strong St Leger lead up in September. That horse finished behind him first up and the Japanese don’t travel for the fun of it.

10/1 - 20/1 . You'd be mad not to have something on at the 20s if you can get it. He has a typical improving Japanese horse's profile and he looks to be a main player here.

HELENE HAPPY STAR - A 4yo bought by John Moore for this year's Derby where he came up short finishing foutth to a horse that sat 3W the trip in one of the quickest Derbies in recent times. Raced as Barley Mow in the UK where he appeared talented but limited, and much the same impression has been left since he came to HK. Never too far away but never in the finish either, he is still a Hong Kong maiden and it is inconceivable that he will be good enough here.

25/1 - 50/1. Looks under the odds to me, couldn't win all things being equal.


SAME WORLD - Pacemaker only. Will run last unless something else goes amiss.

100/1 - 200-1 but Im sure you could write your own ticket.

PACKING LLAREGYB - Nice horse but not up to G1 standard let alone an International G1.

66/1 - 100/1

TIPS
1 - DESIGNS ON ROME
2 - MILITARY ATTACK
3 – BLAZING SPEED
4 – STEPHANOS

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