While Australian jockeys have enjoyed plenty of success in the Hong Kong Sprint, Takedown and Rebel Dane will look to fly the flag in what would be Australia’s first success since Falvelon's brilliant back to back wins in 2000 and 2001. This looks another tough ask for our sprinters although both come off the back off excellent Group 1 wins with Takedown in the Winterbottom Stakes and Rebel Dane in the Manikato Stakes. Here we take a look at the deep strength of the opposition:
Big Arthur – Kenichi Fujioka
Top Japanese sprinter who has 8 wins from 13 starts in Japan and signed off last campaign with superb G1 win in Takamatsunomiya Kinen and picked up where he left off with G2 Centaur Stakes win at Hanshin. Never saw daylight when down the field but still beaten less than three lengths in G1 Sprinters Stakes behind Red Falx last start, this outstanding sprinter has every chance to add more Japanese success following Lord Kanaloa’s back-to-back wins in 2012 and 2013.
Red Falx – Tomohito Ozeki
Formerly regarded as a dirt performer Red Falx has shown vast improvement over the last year on turf culminating in his G1 Sprinters Stakes success. The five-year-old is unbeaten in four starts at 1200 metres and remains open to further improvement at this level having won his last three and his versatility makes him a leading hope to handle conditions here
UK – Growl – Richard Fahey
Since moving stables Growl has been one of the big improvers of the UK season working his way through the handicaps before a brilliant second in the G1 Champions Sprint at Ascot which was backed up by a Listed success in the Wentworth Stakes at Ascot on his last start. It’s been a long season for the son of Oasis Dream and this represents another tough step up in class.
Richard Fahey told Sky Racing: “He’s been in great form since Doncaster and we feel he's still on his game. We always felt he had plenty of ability it was just getting him to show it. He will have to be at his best to beat this lot. If he gets a decent draw and a bit of luck you never know.”
US - Pure Sensation – Christophe Clement
Pure Sensation has enjoyed a great five-year-old campaign in the US, really finding a consistent level of performance which has resulted in three wins including twice at G3 level over 1200 and 1000 metres. He finished off his domestic campaign with an excellent one length third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, a vast improvement on his eighth place in last year’s renewal. Hard to equate the overseas form and no US runner has yet won this race.
Christophe Clement told Sky Racing: “Pure Sensation is doing well. He had a great season so far and ran a good race in the BC. He does not need to lead in order to win as he showed in the Belmont Turf Championship. He can be sitting right of the pace. He is a top class sprinter and a fast horse. We don't know much about the opposition but the main thing is to see if he can acclimate to the right-handed course. He had a work on November 22 in Florida before leaving and seemed fine but we won't find out until he runs.”
France - Signs Of Blessing – Francois Rohaut
Since being gelded Signs Of Blessing has really converted his undoubted promise into performances at the top level this campaign. A fine third in the G1 Golden Jubilee at Ascot was followed by a breakthrough G1 victory in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville when enjoying an uncontested lead. He again made a bold bid from the front in the G1 Champions Sprint when finishing fourth and is closely matched with Growl on that performance. Very unlikely to get an easy lead here and a tough step up.
Aerovelocity – Paul O’Sullivan
Winner of this race in 2014 the New Zealand-bred gelding cannot be discounted at reclaiming his title at the age of eight. He’s boasted an excellent career in Hong Kong with 10 wins from 22 with 8 wins over the course and distance. The son of Pins has also enjoyed G1 wins in Japan and Singapore and will be spot on for this having finished close thirds behind Lucky Bubbles and Not Listenin’tome in two runs warming up to this.
Lucky Bubbles – Francis Lui
Australian-bred sprinter who has enjoyed significant improvement in his Hong Kong career with 6 wins from 13 starts with all the successes coming over this course and distance. Came with a devastating late run to beat Amazing Kids and Aerovelocity in the G2 Premier Bowl first up this campaign before again finishing fast for a close second to Not Listenin’tome in the G2 Jockey Club Sprint last start. Hugely talented and consistent local sprinter who will be suited by a strong pace and looks assured another big run.
Peniaphobia – Tony Cruz
Last year’s winner and runner-up to Aerovelocity in 2014, Peniaphobia has enjoyed a highly consistent and top-class career in Hong Kong with 8 wins from 26 starts. The Hong Kong Champion Sprinter in 2015/16 would be hard to beat at his best but despite an identical two race preparation to last season has been below-par in both races.
Not Listenin’tome – John Moore
Australian-bred sprinter who although yet to breakthrough at G1 level was only beaten a length third in last year’s renewal. Produced a career best effort to beat Lucky Bubbles in G2 Jockey Club Sprint last start in what is a key prep race and cannot be discounted.
Amazing Kids – John Size
Consistent New Zealand- bred sprinter who often gets far back in his races as he did when a fast finishing second to Lucky Bubbles in G2 Premier Bowl on second season start following G3 success. Warmed up for this with fifth in Jockey Club Sprint and should be thereabouts again.
Strathmore – Tony Millard
Consistent sprinter with three wins over the course and distance and 5 wins from 17 starts in Hong Kong. Yet to win a Group race but was third behind Chautauqua and Lucky Bubbles in G1 Chairman’s Sprint in May and latest sixth in G2 Jockey Club Sprint gives him place hopes.
Super Jockey – Tony Millard
Second in the 2015 G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen and latest G1 Korea Sprint at Seoul suggest this eight-year-old’s best performances have come on dirt and will find this tough.
The local team once again looks strong with the ever consistent and talented Lucky Bubbles narrowly favoured ahead of 2014 hero Aerovelocity, however slight preference is for the Japanese superstar Big Arthur who has been brilliant on home soil and can avenge his latest luckless defeat.
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase