ARF countries come together for Champions Day at Sha Tin

Takamatsunomiya Kinen victor Fine Needle (No. 9) heads to the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, picture Japan Racing Association.
Takamatsunomiya Kinen victor Fine Needle (No. 9) heads to the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, picture Japan Racing Association.

Two Asian Racing Federation (ARF) countries are coming together to provide runners for Champions Day at Sha Tin on Sunday, April 29th, including for the feature Group 1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m).

The HK$24 million contest is one of three Group 1 features on Champions Day. Also on the bill are the HK$18 million Champions Mile (1600m) and the HK$16 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m). This year marks the first time that all three races will be staged on one day.

Overseas raiders have captured the APQEII Cup 12 times since it was first opened to outside competition in 1995. Japan has claimed four wins and this time the Yasutoshi Ikee-trained Al Ain (JPN) and the Hidetaka Otonashi-trained Danburite (JPN) will attempt to back-up their compatriot Neorealism’s win of 12 months ago.

Al Ain hails from Japan’s highly-regarded 2017 classic crop. The four-year-old saw off his esteemed contemporaries in the first leg of Japan’s Triple Crown last April, winning the Group 1 Satsuki Sho (2000m). The bay has been in good form with two placed efforts this term, latterly when third to Suave Richard in a hot edition of the Group 1 Osaka Hai (2000m) on 1 April.

Danburite, third in last year’s Satsuki Sho, landed a first Group 2 success earlier this year and was a solid sixth in the Osaka Hai. The four-year-old colt is a son of the 2012 APQEII Cup winner, Rulership.

Time Warp, winner of the G1 Hong Kong Cup and G1 Hong Kong Gold Cup at the course and distance this term, and sensational Hong Kong Derby hero Ping Hai Star, head the home contingent for the HK$24 million feature.

The HK$16 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m) is in its third year as a Group 1 contest and last year ranked 34th in World’s Best 100 Group 1 Races, making it Hong Kong’s highest-rated race.

Hong Kong’s Mr Stunning was runner-up to Lucky Bubbles in this race last year and has gone on to win the G1 Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) this term. A rematch is on the cards, with both among the selections, alongside G1-placed Beat The Clock and the exciting rising talent, Ivictory.

Mr Stunning, Beat The Clock and Ivictory, as well as Amazing Kids and Thewizardofoz, hail from the stable of Hong Kong’s champion trainer, John Size. Beat The Clock registered the second-fastest final 400m split of all-time at Sha Tin when he landed the G2 Sprint Cup at the course and distance on 8 April.

They are joined by Fine Needle ascended to the top of Japan’s sprint ranks with victory last month in the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m), defeating Let’s Go Donki. That breakthrough elite win augmented the five-year-old’s success last year in the G2 Centaur Stakes (1200m).

Mr. Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: “This year, the APQEII Cup will be one of three Group 1 races on the inaugural Champions Day, and the quality of selected runners places this fixture near the top of the international calendar.

“Champions Day will be an exciting event with high-class runners from Japan, Ireland, the UAE and Hong Kong, 11 of them Group 1 winners already. The Chairman’s Sprint Prize is set to feature some of the world’s very best sprinters; the Champions Mile is shaping to be the season’s championship decider for Hong Kong’s strong crop of milers; and the QEII Cup looks like being one of world racing’s 10-furlong highlights. We are excited to welcome horsemen, media and racing fans from around the globe to Sha Tin for Hong Kong’s first Champions Day.”

In other travelling news between ARF countries seven Hong Kong trained horses have been entered for the S$1.5m SGroup 1 Invitation Kranji Mile (1600m) to be held at Kranji Racecourse on Saturday, May 26th, 2018.

Sha Tin trained runners Beauty Generation, Beauty Only, Blizzard, Helene Paragon, Horse Of Fortune, Joyful Trinity and Pingwu Spark have been nominated.

Four international horses will be invited to participate in the recently announced feature race.

The Kranji Mile will be run for the first time as an invitational race, alongside two other S$1 million Group 1 races, the Lion City Cup (1200m) and the Singapore Guineas (1,600m) as part of an initiative to recommence International Races in Singapore by 2019.