Maurice ends career on high note with Hong Kong Cup victory; Hori marks double with Satono Crown win in Vase
Maurice and Satono Crown, both trained by Noriyuki Hori, were the highlights for the Japanese runners in the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races on Sunday, Dec. 11 at Sha Tin Racecourse. Maurice, the odds-on favorite in both the Hong Kong and Japanese markets, took the entire field by storm in the final home straight to win the 2,000-meter Grade 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup, followed by local-trained Secret Weapon by three lengths. Japan and Hong Kong shared the four Grade 1 races, with two victories each, for the day.
Maurice, with Ryan Moore on board, missed the jump and travelled near the end of the field, until picking up pace with about 800 meters to run. Second favorite A Shin Hikari, the defending champion of the race, took the early lead and extended it in the backstretch. Near the 600-meter mark, A Shin Hikari was about 20 lengths ahead of Maurice, but lost momentum as the pace picked up heading for home. It was another classic ride by Moore, guiding Maurice by the rails and waiting for the gap to open. Once he hit the final straight, Maurice switched gears and just had too much speed left for his opponents, as the 5-year-old horse by Screen Hero caught and passed A Shin Hikari in a flash to win the Hong Kong International Races for the second consecutive year.
Following Secret Weapon were a pair of Japanese contenders, with Staphanos edging Lovely Day by a nose for third. Queens Ring, off a win of the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Kyoto Racecourse, crossed the line in 9th and A Shin Hikari eventually finished in a disappointing 10th. It was the last race of the careers for Maurice and A Shin Hikari.
Earlier in the day, Japan jumped off to a great start, with Hori-trained Satono Crown, with Joao Moreira aboard, beating the overwhelming favorite Highland Reel by 1/2 lengths in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase, the first of the four Grade 1 races of the day. The top two were followed by France’s One Foot in Heaven in third and Japan’s Nuovo Record in fourth. The third Japanese horse in the race, Smart Layer, also came on the board in fifth, 1.3 seconds off the winner. Satono Crown brought home the Vase title to the Japanese connections for the first since 2001, when Stay Gold won the race.
The two Japanese runners in the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint weren’t as fortunate, with Big Arthur and Red Falx running 10th and 12th, respectively. The race was dominated by the local Hong Kong runners filling out the first four, with 9-year-old Aerovelocity winning his second Hong Kong Sprint and Lucky Bubbles coming in second with a late stretch run.
The Japanese horses failed to get back on the board in the third Grade 1, the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, a race won by Hong Kong’s Beauty Only with Zach Purton. Neorealism travelled behind the leader, but ran out of gas in the final furlong to finish 9th, while Logotype missed the jump, forcing him to play catch-up early on, and had trouble finding an opening with 300 meters to go. He found the gap with a furlong to go but was a little too late to hit top speed and finished 5th. Satono Aladdin travelled in the rear of the pack and showed good closing speed when he was brought wide in the straight, but just didn’t have enough to catch the top finishers and crossed the line in 7th.
Following are the results of the 13 Japanese runners in the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races:
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