The first of the features is the Hong Kong Vase (Race 4) over the 2400m. Last year’s winner Highland Reel will head the betting to defend his title where he fought back to defeat Flintshire in a great battle down the straight. This year he comes in even better form having placed in the Arc before winning turning the tables on the Arc winner by winning the Breeder’s Cup turf in his latest run. Highland Reel is a proven traveller, has what many consider the world’s best trainer and jockey and hence justifies a short quote. Despite this there is a small concern that this race looks to be run at a fast tempo and I feel Highland Reel performs best when able to control the tempo as he did in the Breeder’s Cup win. At his current quote, I’ll be looking for value around him.
Big Orange comes here off two Australian runs, likes to go forward and was only narrowly beaten the Zipping Classic latest over this trip. He has won 7 from 20 starts including 4 group twos. Australian jockey Damien Lane keeps the ride and is riding well. While I don’t think he has shown enough to win this – I can see him being competitive and expecting his speed aspect will certainly keep the favourite honest.
Looking at the Japanese contenders, Satono Crown looked really promising last season and has a 3rd in the highly regarded Japanese Derby. Only beat one home in latest effort in the Tenno Sho, so need to take on trust somewhat, however the booking of Hong Kong’s top jock Moreira has certainly sparked some interest.
Nuovo Record ran a great second in the Cup last year and has won her only start at this trip (Japanese Oaks) , had her most recents starts in the USA where failed on Breeder’s Cup day, but bounced back with a strong finishing burst to score a Group 3 victory latest run. Needs to improve again, but like that she has performed here previously and expect she’ll enjoy the race tempo.
Smart Layer is the final Japanese runner and she is interestingly trying this distance for the first time. Respect her form but is another on-pace runner and difficult to back untried over the distance.
French Colt, One Foot in Heaven is looking to emulate his mare Pride who won a HK Cup. He’s won 6 of 11 himself though yet to win at Group 1 level. Chased hard in the Arc for a handy 6th, Hold up runner who was suited by a tearaway leader last start and finished strongest. Europeans have dominated this race and he looked to be a player here. Some concerns with reports he hasn’t travelled well though.
The locals have generally struggled in this race and it does look to be the case again this year, however giving a chance at long odds to late entry Flame Hero who caught the eye running home well last start, and gets top local jock Zac Purton and home track advantage.
Tips – 1. Nuovo Record 2. Flame Hero 3. Highland Reel