International Day at Sha Tin is one of the finest days of racing in the world. A swathe of foreign raiders, the best jockeys in the world on show and a capacity crowd at a fantastic racecourse. Put it on your bucket list, it really is something special.
Backing up once more for International Day is foreign racing aficionado Davy Lane, @loscharruas. He'll have previews for each of the international races.
Longines Hong Kong Vase
Group 1, 2400m, HK$16.5 million (£1.444m)
1400 local, 1700 AEDT, 0600 GMT
My Idea of the Winner
I had pinned my Ante Post hopes on One Foot in Heaven. This race has been a long term plan for connections. (The dam Pride was the winner of the Hong Kong Cup in 2006.) Christophe Soumillon chose the colt over other French contenders. And the photo finish between Postponed, New Bay and One Foot in Heaven for fifth place in this year’s Arc was seared in my mind. Can win a major Group 1 race one day, I scribbled on my racecard. The O’Brien tag team may have danced away, but a forensic inspection of the Chantilly Arc suggested One Foot in Heaven was the one to take out of race. Held up by Cristian Demuro, One Foot In Heaven made headway on the turn only to run into The Grey Gatsby on the rail and going backwards. Evasion action was taken to side step the labouring Harzand and Silverwave. Then just as One Foot in Heaven saw daylight, he took a bump from Highland Reel himself moving out to challenge. One Foot in Heaven changed leads and knuckled down making lengths on the hot favourite Postponed, while always having the measure of late-charging New Bay. The clincher was a glance at the gallop out which showed One Foot in Heaven gliding by the winner, Found. One Foot in Heaven was always going to be my Big Enchilada Bet of the HKIR weekend. Three days ago it reported by the Hong Kong vets that One Foot in Heaven has shown blood abnormalities in routine tests. One Foot in Heaven has been wandering around the quarantine barn since. As such it would be unreasonable to put up One Foot in Heaven as my pick. I have already bet him relentlessly for the past two weeks at 20/1. I am locked in. If the vets and Alain Royer-Dupre are ultimately content and One Foot in Heaven takes his place, I would not put anyone off including him in some exotic action and or in any Each Way plays. He remains 20/1 with Paddy Power and will probably drift on the day because of the recent question about his bloods.
The Other Contenders
According to the market Japanese mare Nuovo Record, conqueror of Harp Star in the 2014 Japanese Oaks and second in the Hong Kong Cup last year, seems to offer the only serious competition to Highland Reel. Reports from the track are rosy, but the historic victory at Del Mar was by a nose hair and Nuovo Record did not show anything after the line. On the other hand, she ran where the surf meets the turf without Lasix and she does get 4kg from the boys. She’s a must use in all exotic wagers. Satono Crown had been great value in Ante Post markets initially available at 50-1. When it dawned on UK punters the Magic Man Moreira had been booked, that price was cut into 16-1. The 4 year old colt maybe avoiding Maurice in the Cup, but has been going to hoof-to-hoof with his compatriot on the training track. He has looked more than capable. His 1 3/4 length third to Duramente in last year’s Japanese Derby makes him terrific Each Way value at 16/1. The price will only shorten and the starting price will be single figures because of the Magic Man.
The Wise Guy Horse
The Wise Guy horse is Eastern Express. This is probably because the 4 year old gelding is trained by John Size, hottest trainer in Hong Kong. I find the booking of Silvestre de Sousa intriguing also. The Brazilian can help horses find muscles they never knew they had. But this is not about me being a card carrying member of the Silvestre Fan Club. It’s about finding the winner or value in the exotics. Would not the Magic Man still be on the horse if he thought it could win? Moreira has been vocal about loyalty to Hong Kong with his other choices. The horse has never gone the distance. I cannot tip, but nor can I toss. Watch the market.
Six Raiders You Can Toss
The first horse to toss is Big Orange. The connections were torn about going to the Melbourne Cup. The original plan as stated last summer was the 2017 Dubai Gold Cup. If connections were serious about winning this, Jamie Spencer would have been flown to Hong Kong, no expense spared. For me, this is nickle and diming en route back to Michael Bell’s yard. Nothing wrong with that. There are a lot of nickles and dimes to picked up for finishing fourth, fifth and sixth here. Toss. Silverwave could come into the reckoning. Pascal Bary has said the relentless gallop in the Arc did not suit him. This will also not be a stroll followed by a 2 furlong dash up the straight. Toss. Garlingari caught the competition cold early in the French Spring. Credit to Corine Barande-Barbe. She likes the craic in Hong Kong and she’s also entitled to have a crack at those nickles and dimes. Toss. Japan’s Smart Layer has no form over the distance. She is also a badly-drawn girl which means The Legend will be in no position to dictate a slow pace. Toss. Quechua is an Argentine-bred with an interesting US dirt pedigree among the ancestors, but I suspect we’d have seen signs of the great Secretariat before now. This run seems like an opportunity to celebrate the career of retiring Singapore handler, Patrick Shaw. Toss. New Zealand-trained Benzini is another with framed photograph of Secretariat on his barn wall. Benzini has a few notable Australian Gr III scalps to his name. This is his distance. Rosie Myers keeps the ride, which is commendable. But 66/1 is way too short to even consider a random stab at an Each Way play. Toss.
Three Locals You Can Toss
If you follow great jockeys you may tempted by one of the three remaining local runners. Anticipation is the mount of Neil “ignore at your peril” Callan. Helene Happy Star gets Hugh “Big Money” Bowman. And Flame Hero is the ride of Zac Purton, Hong Kong Champion Jockey in 2014. Bowman has been honest in his interviews. Toss. Flame Hero and Purton have only got one mention on Twitter and the jockey has conceded the horse “is out of his depth”. Toss. Anticipation is a former Aidan O’Brien horse who didn’t make the grade. He is admirable local handicapper. Toss.
The Probable Winner
The lads clearly see this as money for old rope. Highland Reel is obviously the probable winner. The 11/10 available today will look great value when the horse goes off at 8/11. That said, one cannot ignore Highland Reel was woeful last time out at Sha Tin. It was unusually yielding ground in the Audemars Piquet QEII Cup last April and the horse was not match fit. Highland Reel looked composed and in fine fettle during trackwork. The firm ground will suit. He’s almost bullet proof. Only a fit One Foot in Heaven can stop him.
Highland Reel Win 11/10 Betfair
One Foot in Heaven Each Way 20/1 Paddy Power
Twist Exacta (also known as a Reverse Forecast or Quinella)
1st - Highland Reel
2nd - One Foot in Heaven
1st - Highland Reel
2nd - One Foot in Heaven
3rd - Nuovo Record; Satono Crown
Use Highland Reel in across the card Multiple Parlays.
Use One Foot in Heaven in across the card Each Way Multiple Parlays.