Countless kilometres of air travel have cobbled together much of racing’s brightest equine talent for today’s Longines Hong Kong International meeting at Sha Tin.
Lone Aussie raider Linton is an outsider in the $A2.92 million International Mile – a race which French mare Moonlight Cloud seeks to advance her already grand reputation.
The 10-race card boasts four Group 1s including the $A2.19 million Hong Kong Vase, in which five of the 14 combatants have Melbourne Cup experience. Defending Vase champion Red Cadeaux will carry saddlecloth one, while British hopes look to star Danehill mare The Fugue.
The International Sprint (1200m) looms as a clash between the patriotic locals and the Japanese.
Defending champion Lord Kanaloa drew wide on the track (12 of 14 runners) while John Moore’s trio Charles The Great, Frederick Engels and Sterling Cup fared well.
Lucky Nine, to be ridden by Brett Prebble, is well placed in the five alley. He has not raced since failing at Flemington on November 9 but that won’t deter his army of supporters.
The Hong Kong Cup (2000m) will be a test of stamina.
Hong Kong’s reigning Horse of the Year Military Attack heads betting in the most open of the day’s feature races. The John Moore-trained gelding won the QE II Cup at Sha Tin last year (at this distance) and the SIA Cup in Singapore on May 9. He won four in-a-row at the end of last season.
French star Cirrus Des Aigles has started favourite in eight of his past nine starts, winning three.
He was scratched (when strongly fancied) at the last minute in the 2012 Cup and this will be his fourth tilt at the event. Soft going would have strengthened his claims but he’s still a live hope.
The highlight of the day may well be the performance of star French mare Moonlight Cloud in the Mile.
She is drawn to suit in barrier six and trainer Freddy Head is very happy with his star but is cautious of the threat Sky Lantern poses.
Vase: The Fugue 1, Mount Athos 2, Dunaden 3
Sprint: Lucky Nine 1, Sterling City 2, Lord Kanaloa 3
Cup: Cirrus Des Aigles 1, Military Attack 2, Endowing 3
Mile: Moonlight Cloud 1, Sky Lantern 2, Gold-Fun 3