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Nominations for FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin

Wed 18th Mar 2020, 12:40

Win Bright wins the 2019 FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup impressively.
Hong Kong Jockey Club

Elite Japanese raiders, high-class challengers from Australia and Europe, and Hong Kong’s brilliant best are among the list of 85 horses holding 102 nominations for FWD Champions Day at Sha Tin on Sunday, 26 April, 2020.

FWD Champions Day features three world class Group 1 races, the HK$25 million FWD Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2000m), the HK$20 million FWD Champions Mile (1600m), and the HK$18 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m). A total of 34 G1 winners are among this year’s exciting entries.

Win Bright has the chance to follow up his sensational FWD QEII Cup win of last year, and could face the superstar mare Almond Eye and Hong Kong’s champion stayer Exultant, as well as Godolphin stars Barney Roy and Ghaiyyath; Beauty Generation is entered to attempt an unprecedented third win in a row in the FWD Champions Mile against crack milers Admire Mars and Indy Champ; and the rising stars of the world sprint scene, Aethero and Hot King Prawn, could lock horns in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize against talented overseas rivals.

Mr. Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing, at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: “Perspective is important at times such as this and the right balance must be struck given what is happening at present, with governments and communities around the world working out how to deal with the COVID-19 threat. In this regard the Hong Kong Jockey Club is working closely with the Hong Kong government, employees and community partners.

“Hong Kong racing has been able to continue with stringent safeguards in place and we are pleased that horsemen from around the world have shown faith and trust enough in our dedication to health, safety and security to nominate their stable stars to our three Group 1 races at Sha Tin on FWD Champions Day. That says much for the attraction of Hong Kong racing and all the positive things it stands for in the world of sport.

“There is a range of factors that will affect the extent to which it is feasible for overseas runners to participate in FWD Champions Day and the situation is a rapidly changing one. The Club is continuously monitoring developments including announcements of Hong Kong and other Governments and assessing what is feasible and appropriate. A realistic assessment of the feasibility of international runners participating in the 2020 edition of FWD Champions Day can only be made in the next few weeks.

“We are pleased to have a good number of nominations but more important than the numbers are the quality and we are delighted that the calibre of entries is so high, with six individual classic winners from Japan and two top-class Godolphin horses, as well as Hong Kong’s best and some very talented Australian and European contenders. We look forward to Sunday, 26 April in anticipation of an excellent day of uplifting sport.”

FWD QEII Cup

Win Bright charged to victory over Exultant and Japan’s subsequent Horse of the Year Lys Gracieux in last year’s stellar renewal. He could bid to become the second back-to-back winner since the race was opened to international competition in 1995, following compatriot Eishin Preston in 2002 and 2003, having already returned to Sha Tin in December for an excellent win in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

The grey is one of 51 entries for the 2000m feature, and one of 18 engaged from Japan. The powerful Japanese cohort includes Almond Eye, whose six G1 wins include the Japan Cup (2400m), Dubai Turf (1800m) and a stunning performance in last year’s Tenno Sho Autumn (2000m).

Japan’s team could also have December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) winner Glory Vase, as well as Tenno Sho Autumn runner-up Danon Premium, recent G2 Kinko Sho victor Saturnalia, and fellow classic winners Wagnerian, Makahiki, Epoca D’Oro and Loves Only You. Chrono Genesis is also engaged – she had Curren Bouquetd’or in second when winning the G1 Shuka Sho (2000m) and the latter, also nominated, was subsequently second to Suave Richard in the G1 Japan Cup (2400m).

The powerful Godolphin operation has entered G1 stars Barney Roy and Ghaiyyath: the former returned to action at Meydan recently with wins in the G2 Al Rashidiya (1800m) and G1 Jebel Hatta (1800m); the latter smashed his rivals in the G1 Grosser Preis von Baden (2400m) last year and impressed first-up for this year with a recent 2000m G3 win at Meydan.

Hong Kong’s Exultant is a three-time G1 winner and has been in fine form this season but was undone in a shock defeat when second to fellow triple G1 scorer Time Warp in the G1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) last month.

FWD Champions Mile

Beauty Generation dominated the Hong Kong scene last season, which he rounded out with a second consecutive Champions Mile win. His prowess dipped a notch earlier this term but he has still proven his top-class ability, notably when winning the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) last time.

The two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year lost his G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile crown in December though when Japan’s Admire Mars stormed to victory. Beauty Generation was third that day, behind runner-up Waikuku who gained a first G1 in January’s Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and has emerged as a local challenger to his outright champion status.

Hong Kong’s brilliant four-year-old Golden Sixty is also among the nominations. The gelding has won nine of 10 races including the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) and Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m), and is set for Sunday’s BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m).

The 32 entries also feature Japan’s brilliant Indy Champ, successful in the G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) and the G1 Mile Championship (1600m) last year before an unlucky seventh in the Hong Kong Mile. The 2018 Yasuda Kinen winner Mozu Ascot has also been entered, off a fine win in the G1 February Stakes (1600m, dirt) last month.

Chairman’s Sprint Prize

Aethero emerged in the early part of this season as a potential sprint superstar and after winning a G2 at the course and distance was a close third in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint. He was found to be under the weather in the aftermath of that effort and has been given time to recover health and form for a spring campaign.

G2 winner Hot King Prawn, runner-up in the Hong Kong Sprint among three G1-placings this term, emerged as a champion sprinter contender with a Class 1 1200m win last time. The Hong Kong contingent also features two-time Hong Kong Sprint hero Mr Stunning, fellow G1 winner D B Pin and G1-placed Thanks Forever.

Australia has two of the 19 Chairman’s Sprint Prize entries: Pierata’s nine wins include last season’s G1 All Aged Stakes (1400m), while Graff is a G1-placed G3 winner.

Japan’s entries feature Mr Melody, winner of the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) last year, alongside the G1-placed Danon Smash, recent G3 Silk Road Stakes (1200m) heroine A Will A Way, and Diatonic, who defeated Mozu Ascot to win the G2 Swan Stakes (1400m) in October.

THE IRISH TIMES