Sunday 26 February 2017, Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup & Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup Day at Sha Tin racecourse. Hong Kong’s International Group 1 stars were out en masse, providing the crowd with racing action at the highest level. Fortunate enough to be in Hong Kong in association with the Hong Kong International Sale horses, I made full use of my break and made my way to the Sha Tin straight to watch the day unfold.
The legendary Able Friend suffered a notable three-quarters of a length defeat in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup by five-year old stablemate Helene Paragon. However, trainer Moore is confident the beast from the east will be back in better shape and over a mile. Dual Group 1 winner Helene Paragon will now be aimed at the Gr. 1 Champions Mile at Sha Tin on 7 May.
The day’s other feature found reigning Horse of the Year Werther having to put on a fight to secure his third win over course and distance from previously having dominated the BMW Hong Kong Derby in March followed by the G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup held in April. Defeating the Tony Cruz trained Blazing Speed by a short head, Werther gained Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup honours, earning him a ticket to the Dubai World Cup Meeting. However, his owners have decided to keep the Tavistock gelding on home soil, targeting the local features instead.
One of my favourite aspects of photographing runners in Hong Kong, where it be at Happy Valley or Sha Tin Racecourse, is the colourful gear they sport. Blinkers, hoods, bridles: it all corresponds with the owner’s or trainer’s colours; Beauty Only looks very smart in his baby pink Cantonese printed race hood. It probably wouldn’t resonate well in England or even in Europe, but then again, Hong Kong racing culture stands on its own.
Last but not least: make sure to tune in for the 2017 renewal of the BMW Hong Kong Derby at Sha Tin on Sunday March 19. It is Hong Kong’s most coveted local Group 1, and also boasts the second most valued prize pot of all the Derbys in the world; this year’s 140th renewal offers a grand total of HK $18 million. Restricted to four-year-olds only, trainers and owners are out to immortalise their galloper by achieving Derby glory. Having been associated with one of the main contenders, Pakistan Star, a 2016 HKIS graduate and viral superstar, I am completely biased and will be cheering him home until my voice goes.
Talking about future stars, this year’s HKIS is just around the corner: March 17, whereby the glamorous affair starts at 6.30PM, hosted under the roof of Sha Tin’s parade ring.