Luxembourg© Photo Healy Racing
Luxembourg is set to lead a four-strong team for Aidan O’Brien into battle in this year’s Longines Hong Kong International races at Sha Tin.
The son of Camelot notched a third victory at Group One level in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in the spring and was last seen going down narrowly to his dual Derby and Breeders’ Cup-winning stablemate Auguste Rodin when bidding for back-to-back triumphs in the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September.
With a minor setback subsequently ruling Luxembourg out of an intended tilt at the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot, he has made the trip to the Far East to contest the Hong Kong Cup on December 10.
O’Brien said: “We were training him for the Champion Stakes in England and he got a foot bruise. It just held him up for a couple of weeks, so that’s why didn’t go there.
“Obviously it was a great run in the Irish Champion Stakes over a mile and a quarter, he’s versatile we think and he likes nice ground. We’re looking forward to him.”
While the Hong Kong Cup is one of the few major international prizes to so far elude the master of Ballydoyle, he has a far better record in the Hong Kong Vase, with Highland Reel striking gold in both 2015 and 2017 and Mogul providing him with a third success in 2020.
This year’s representative in the mile-and-a-half event is Warm Heart, winner of the Yorkshire Oaks and the Prix Vermeille at the highest level earlier this year before going down by a neck to Inspiral in the Breeders’ Cup Filly &; Mare Turf at Santa Anita.
“We were debating what we’d do, I suppose either of them could have gone either way, but we just felt it was a very good run in the Irish Champion Stakes from Luxembourg,” O’Brien told the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
“Warm Heart ran over 10 furlongs in America, but she’d won her two Group Ones over a mile and a half.
“She’s been very progressive, she’s thrived physically, loves nicer ground, she’s tactically quick and she doesn’t surrender. She’s been unbelievable really.”
The O’Brien raiding party is completed by the Hong Kong Mile-bound Cairo, who was second to prolific stablemate Paddington in the Irish 2,000 Guineas earlier in the year, and Aesop’s Fables, who would not be winning out of turn if plundering the Hong Kong Sprint, having finished third in the Prix de l’Abbaye and the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on his two most recent starts.
“We were hopeful Cairo would get into Hong Kong, but he had to have a run and we were delighted with him (when third in a Listed race at Leopardstown in October),” O’Brien said.
“He obviously got a bit tired, the ground was very soft and wasn’t ideal, but his run before when he was second to Paddington was on nice ground and we’ve been very happy with his work since.
“He think he’s progressed plenty. We always thought and hoped he could be a horse that could go on to a lot of those races all over the world.
“Aesop’s Fables has been progressive all the time. We put the blinkers on before France, we were delighted there and then he ran a stormer in America.
“He’s a big horse, maybe he just took a bit of time to get the hang of it. His best two runs were over five furlongs, but he looks like he’s been coming home well in both runs. There’s every chance he should be OK over six, but we’ll learn a lot more about him.”