Friday, March 25, 2011


I have been a fan and devotee of Hong Kong racing for a little over a decade now, ever since I first traveled (circuitously, I might add) for the 2000 International Races meeting. After seeing the legendary Sunline and Fairy King Prawn come to settle the Hong Kong Mile, I was hooked. Since then, I have been able to apply my knowledge of Hong Kong racing and horses on the world stage, on occasion, and never more so than on World Cup night over the past few years.

The great Fairy King Prawn registered the first overseas victory by a Hong Kong-based horse when he took the Yasuda Kinen in Japan in 2000, and I had the honor of seeing Hong Kong’s favorite son take on Australasian legend Sunline in the Hong Kong Mile, the most exciting race I’ve ever witnessed personally and maybe the best ever staged in Hong Kong. Those two rivals would square off again four months later in the desert in the Duty Free S. Fairy King Prawn, ridden too quietly by Robbie Fradd that evening, finished ahead of the great Sunline, but both were trumped by the globetrotting Jim and Tonic in one of the most stirring finishes in the history of that race.

But, despite that smattering of world-class performances, many regard the brand of racing in Hong Kong as substandard and provincial. Vengeance of Rain came to Dubai in 2007 as a winner of the [locally] prestigious Hong Kong Derby and Hong Kong Cup in 2005. He was supposed to strut his stuff on the international stage in Dubai the following March, but was sidelined with a potentially career-threatening heart arrhythmia. He made it back to the races, and his third-place effort in defense of his Hong Kong Cup title in December 2006 suggested he’d lost little of his ability.

His desert debut awaited in the Sheema Classic against a field including reigning Epsom Derby hero Sir Percy, Breeders’ Cup Turf upsetter Red Rocks and Melbourne Cup runner-up Pop Rock. Vengeance was sent off at 10-1, with my money on his nose (finally a chance to bet him!), and he always traveled like a winner for Anthony Delpech, coming home 1 1/4 lengths ahead of the Mike de Kock-trained Oracle West. Hong Kong would be represented by the Sheema favorite in 2008 in the form of Viva Pataca. While I was thrilled to have a shot to invest in him (at a little more than 2-1), I was committed to the exacta with Sun Classique (15-2), an Australian-bred mare who miraculously got out of jail in her Sheema prep and figured to be right there in the big race. Well, Viva drew 12 and always had to cover ground, but came into the stretch with a chance to win.

Dynamic Blitz
That was short-lived, as Sun Classique ran right back to her Balanchine S. score and cleared off by about three. In 2010, the unheralded Joy and Fun upset the Al Quoz Sprint at odds of 18-1, while One World ran a place in the Golden Shaheen at 11-1. This time around, Dynamic Blitz owns an upset in the Al Shindagha Sprint--a pointer to the Shaheen--and Beauty Flash, the reigning Hong Kong Mile hero, is as tough as nails and should give a good account of himself in the Duty Free.

I’m not here to say that I’ll be emptying the pockets this weekend or that there’s a ‘banker’ in the bunch, but I’m certain the Hong Kong horses will hold their own.

--Alan Carasso

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