2024 News

April 30, 2024


Prognosis, North Bridge head team on Hong Kong Champions Day

Victory eludes but three from Japan figure large in HK QEII

Despite a team twice the size of last year’s, and runners in all three Grade 1 events, Japan was unable to break Hong Kong’s steely grip on the Sha Tin turf. The home team swept all three of the Group 1 turf events held on Sunday, April 28 in what is known as Champions Day, comprised of the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1,200 meters), the Champions Mile (1,600) and the QEII Cup (2,000).

Japan’s team of eight, finished the day with a Sprint best 10th place, a Mile best eighth, and saved face and satisfied punters back home with a second- and third-place showing in the QE2.

The week leading to Sunday saw more than 25 cm of rain dumped on Hong Kong and had studious punters checking for swimming form. Race day, however, saw the track recovered to a far-less-frightening rating of “yielding.”

Kicking off the top-level events of the day was the HK$22-million Chairman’s Sprint, the fifth race on a day of 10, with a field of 11 runners that included three raiders from abroad, two from Japan and one from the U.K.

The race was won by Invincible Sage, finishing a length and a half ahead of California Spangle, with Mugen filling out the winning trifecta. The race, yet to be won in four previous attempts by runners from Japan (best result Fine Needle in fourth in 2018) continued to elude. Japan’s 5-year-old Sunrise Ronaldo, 4-3 in his only graded tests to date (both G3s), was no surprise in 10th place amid the top-rate competition, but Mad Cool, with a 2-1 record in Grade 1 sprints in Japan and an eighth in last year’s Hong Kong Sprint, shocked as the last runner over the finish line. Ridden forward after a slow start, the 5-year-old raced wide and without cover for most of the race. Later, a shifted front shoe was discovered as a likely factor in his poor showing.

Sunrise Ronaldo’s Shogo Yasuda said, “We were done in by the talent of the Hong Kong runners.” Though his charge had been “calm and level-headed” Yasuda said he was “going to rethink his preparation from here on.” Rider Damian Lane said, “The pace of the race was too fast for this horse, and the ground was worse than I had imagined.” Ryusei Sakai, who rode Mad Cool to victory in the Grade 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen at the end of March, said, “He had nothing much left heading in to the homestretch. He didn’t show us his usual racing.” Trainer Manabu Ikezoe, also unaware of the loose shoe at the time, attributed the poor result to the going. “He was in better shape compared to last year’s trip to Hong Kong, but the days of rain had made the going pretty bad and he had a very hard time of it over the final stage.”

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The Champions Mile, also carrying a purse of $HK22 million, saw one runner from Great Britain in addition to three from Japan amid of field numbering 11. Here, the winning streak of legendary Golden Sixty come to a screeching halt, on his fourth bid in the race. The top two spots were claimed by the John Size-trained winner Beauty Eternal and runnerup Red Lion. Voyage Bubble, nominated for the Yasuda Kinen, made third place.

Japan’s three hopefuls (all 4-year-old colts) were bested by Elton Barows in eighth place, with Obamburumai in 10th, Champagne Color in last place.

“The ground took away his speed,” said Elton Barows’ Haruki Sugiyama, while rider Atsuya Nishimura said, “He’d been somewhat lost in the new surroundings on his first trip overseas, But, he did try his best.” Keiji Yoshimura, trainer of the internationally raced Obamburumai, who was bumped shortly after the start, said, “The pace was slower than I’d thought it would be and the ground didn’t suit.” Rider Damian Lane said the colt, third in last year’s NHK Mile Cup, “had tried very hard, but he wasn’t able to show his usual late speed.” Champagne Color, who won the 2023 NHK Mile Cup over yielding turf, was expected by trainer Tsuyoshi Tanaka to fare well on the rain-affected track, but the colt tripped at the break, lost ground, and racing from behind, was unable to make up the distance.

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The $HK28-million QEII Cup also saw only one runner from the U.K. and three from Japan joining seven from Hong Kong. The Cup wrapped up the day’s big events and was won for the third time in a row by the near-invincible Romantic Warrior. Japan shone as well, with all of its three runners able to make the board in a race Japan has claimed five times before. The Mitsumasa Nakauchida-trained, 6-year-old Prognosis had posted 2-5 in his previous bids at Sha Tin, with both races won by Romantic Warrior. This time, Prognosis hit the side of the gate at the jump, lost ground, yet rallied with 1,200 to go, racing wide and without cover. Amazingly, and in a repeat of last year’s placing, the son of Deep Impact managed to pass all but one, and shorten last year’s margin of 2 lengths to a mere neck.

Rider Yuga Kawada said, “He has competed in Hong Kong many times, so he's used to the surroundings. Still, today he broke worse than he normally would. The pace wasn’t very fast so I concentrated on him keeping him well-balanced. The margin was a small one, but (Romantic Warrior) has always won, so I really, really wanted this horse to win. Still, he really gave it his all today."

G2 winner North Bridge, a 6-year-old son of Maurice (the only Japan runner to win the Champions Mile) went into the race with a lackluster 11-8-10 in his previous G1 bids. Partnered with Yasunari Iwata, though North Bridge also had a less-than-smooth start, he managed to make the money with a G1-personal-best third place. The 8-year-old Hishi Iguazu, third in last year’s Hong Kong Cup and runnerup in the same in 2021, was unable to get a clear run amid traffic in the straight and finished in fifth place under Damian Lane.

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This year, all three of the Hong Kong Grade 1s were open to betting in Japan and reeled in over 2.97 billion yen, far surpassing the 1.63 billion yen garnered by the Japan Racing Association from wagering on only two of the races last year.

Official results; Sprint, Mile, Cup


Please visit the Hong Kong Jockey Club website for the latest news and further information.



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