DUBAI HONOUR’S connections are targeting one of the biggest prizes in the racing calendar with a tilt at the Hong Kong Cup, the feature of the prestigious Longines International Series on December 12.
The race is one of the richest in the world, run over a mile-and-two-furlongs at Sha Tin with a prize fund of over $3.8million. It was originally only open to horses trained in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia back in 1988 when the race was first run, but entries were thrown open in a bid to attract some of the best horses from the US and Europe.
That certainly appears the case this year with the European contingent headed by the William Haggas-trained Dubai Honour, the three-year-old making his first start abroad.
Although he failed to win on his last start, he did impress in the Group One British Champion Stakes at Ascot in October, finishing less than a length behind French raider Sealiway, but ahead of Derby champion Adayar and Group 1 winner Mishriff.
Newmarket-based Haggas believes his delayed start to his campaign this year – Ascot was only the fifth run of 2021 – may give him an edge in a field packed full of the best racers in the world.
“Dubai Honour is looking well and on schedule to run in Hong Kong, where we think the mile and a quarter of the Cup rather than the longer trip of the Vase will suit him,” said Haggas, whose horse joined Hong Kong Vase entrant Pyledriver on the long flight from London to Hong Kong.
“I don’t usually like taking three-year-olds out there as it’s a long trip, but he’s relatively fresh having only started his season at Royal Ascot.”
Dubai Honour is currently trading as second favorite, 7/2 (+350), but the three-year-old will have to defy recent history to triumph. The race has been predominantly won over the last decade by four and five-year-olds, with ‘local’ entrants dominating the list of winners – the last ten have been trained in either Hong Kong or Japan. The last European winner was Snow Fairy in 2010, the three-year-old trained by Ed Dunlop and ridden by Ryan Moore.
Favorite for the race is the winner of the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Del Mar, Loves Only You, the Japanese-trained mare available at 7/4 (+175). Lei Papale, winner of the Group One Osaka Hai earlier this year is third favorite at odds 9/2 (+450).
Hong Kong’s challenge is headed by Glorious Dragon, 12/1 (+1200), the son of Teofilo developing into a top-class racer this year, despite a run of hard luck stories in recent outings. A creditable fourth place in the Group One Hong Kong Gold Cup in February was sandwiched by wins in the Group Three Centenary Vase and the Class One Peak Handicap, and local support will be out in force in the hope of roaring the horse trained by Francis Lui Kin-wai to success.
The Irish contingent is led by the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair, Japan, 16/1 (+1600), and Bolshoi Ballet, 25/1 (+2500), with Ryan Moore likely to be on board one of the two. Moore will be looking to claim a third win after his success with Snow Fairy and then aboard the Japanese trained Maurice in 2016; he would go level with Frankie Dettori as the leading jockey in the race if successful.
Moore was on the much-fancied third-placed finisher last year, Magical, who was edged out for second spot by 2019 winner Win Bright, with Normcore claiming first. Trained by Kiyoshi Hagiwara and ridden by Zac Purton, – the jockey inheriting the ride after Christophe Soumillon was quarantined – Normcore was flying at the end, winning by three-quarters of a length.
Jim Bolger’s winner of the Irish 2000 Guineas, Mac Swiney, is also available at 25/1 (+2500), with the veteran a rare European winning trainer of the race, guiding three-year-old Alexander Goldrun to a shock triumph in 2004.