After Noriyuki Hori had won the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase with Satono Crown and the G1 Hong Kong Cup with Maurice in December, the champion trainer started to think about future big races in Hong Kong as a next major target for another of his stable stars, Neorealism. Hori was not fazed by the talented chestnut’s ninth placing in the same afternoon’s G1 Hong Kong Mile.
The six-year-old horse by Neo Universe, the lone Japanese challenger in the field for the G1 Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup on 30 April, has had one prep run, a win in the G2 Nakayama Kinen in February, but Hori had a few other G1 options to consider as well as the big Sha Tin test.
Invited to the G1 Dubai Turf at Meydan on 25 March, Hori decided against the race as, in his experience, the races in Dubai could cost his trainees too much, and potentially require a more substantial rest after returning from the long trip. Another option was the Osaka Hai, a 2000m event at Hanshin on 2 April, and promoted this year to a G1 event with its prize money doubled from the previous year. Once again, Hori decided to skip the race, believing that the Hong Kong trip would come too soon after the Osaka Hai.
Hori then took time to contemplate – should Neorealism go for the APQEII Cup or the G1 Champions Mile, also at Sha Tin, one week later? In reaching a decision, he considered the distance differences and which jockeys would be available to ride. When all of the factors were considered, Hori chose the APQEII Cup.
Last time out, Neorealism, who runs for the Carrot Club, a racing syndicate under the influence of Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm, delivered a smashing performance to win the Nakayama Kinen. With Mirco Demuro on board, Neorealism tracked the leaders and drew away to collect his second graded stakes victory, beating a quality field which included four G1 winners.
The fifth-place finisher in Nakayama, beaten two lengths by Neorealism, was Vivlos, who went to win the G1 Dubai Turf impressively with the Magic Man, Joao Moreira aboard.
Despite finishing third in the G1 Mile Championship in November, Neorealism is arguably better at distances beyond 1600m. He has won seven races so far since he started his racing career in February 2014, all at distances further than 1600m, with four coming in races over 2000m, including the G2 Sapporo Kinen in August 2016, when he defeated Maurice, who of course went on to later wins last season in the G1 Tenno Sho and the Hong Kong Cup.
There seems to be little speed in the APQEII Cup field, and Neorealism could dominate the race from the front, as he did when winning the Sapporo Kinen. As 2000m is a better trip for him than 1600m, he has trained beautifully for the race on the last Sunday of April while enjoying plenty of time in between starts, I believe Neorealism is a live chance to avenge his defeat from his previous visit to Hong Kong in December.
Naohiro is a leading journalist and commentator in Japan with regular television shows on networks such as NHK Network and Green Channel. He is a regular contributor for newspapers, magazines and websites including Sports Nippon, Weekly Gallop and netkeiba.com. He also operates a bloodstock business marketing firm. Naohiro is a frequent international racing traveler and a regular visitor to the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin.