European challengers heading to Hong Kong for G1 Champions Mile and G1 Chairman's Sprint Prize
High-class raiders from Britain and France will take on Hong Kong’s prodigious stars in two fascinating Group 1 features at Sha Tin racecourse on Sunday, 7 May, the $16 million Champions Mile (1600m) and the HK$14 million Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
Hong Kong’s brilliant four-year-old Rapper Dragon tops the bill in the eight-runner Champions Mile. John Moore’s history-maker will face a trio of familiar G1 victors, as well as the Ed Walker-trained G1-placed Stormy Antarctic and Sir Michael Stoute’s Convey from Britain.
The Chairman’s Sprint Prize, the fourth leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, features France’s standout sprinter Signs Of Blessing among a field of 14. Francois Rohaut’s speedster is one of a strong line-up of top-class contenders, which is set to include fellow G1 winners Aerovelocity and Peniaphobia, last year’s runner-up Lucky Bubbles and Hong Kong’s latest bullet, Mr Stunning.
Mr Anthony Kelly, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing Business and Operations, said: “Last year was the first time that we had the Group 1 double-header of the Champions Mile and the newly-promoted Chairman’s Sprint Prize and we were privileged to enjoy two exceptional races, so it’s pleasing to see that this year we are in for another treat.
“We are especially pleased to have attracted runners from elite stables in Britain and France, which is not easy to achieve at this time year when the European season is just beginning to warm up,” he continued.
“The two races will see established Group 1 stars vie for supremacy against exciting emerging talents, and both promise to be fascinating championship contests. Rapper Dragon will attempt to do what no Hong Kong Derby winner has ever done by adding the Champions Mile to his haul, while the Chairman’s Sprint Prize is another world class race, with Signs Of Blessing on something of a revenge mission against a strong Hong Kong contingent after his good run here in December.”
The Champions Mile ranked equal 19th in the World’s Top 100 Group 1 Races for 2016, while the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, in only its first year as a Group 1 contest, ranked co-49th.
Rapper Dragon, Hong Kong’s standout four-year-old, will take aim at a first G1 victory in the Champions Mile. The impressive chestnut swept aside his peers to become the first horse to win all three legs of Hong Kong’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series earlier this year, and will now attempt to become the first BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner to land May’s mile feature.
The Street Boss gelding followed his Derby win with a smart victory in the G2 Chairman’s Trophy (1600m) last start, in which he held the re-opposing Beauty Only in second. Tony Cruz’s charge, successful in December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, had to concede a 5lb penalty on that occasion and is expected to be a formidable rival when he re-opposes at set weights in the Champions Mile.
Stormy Antarctic established himself in the top echelon of his generation in Europe over the past two seasons, placing second in the G1 Criterium International at two and the G1 Prix Jean Prat at three. A three-time winner at 1400m and 1600m, the four-year-old warmed up for his Hong Kong test with a smart second at Doncaster on 1 April.
Sir Michael Stoute has enjoyed a couple of great days in Hong Kong thanks to Soviet Line and Daliapour at the December international fixture. The multiple UK champion trainer is sending Convey to Sha Tin this time, and the progressive five-year-old heads into the Champions Mile on a hat-trick after winning two big prizes on Lingfield’s Polytrack this year, including the G3 Winter Derby (2000m).
The field also features the Moore-trained Helene Paragon, a G1 winner twice this term thanks to wins in the Stewards’ Cup (1600m) and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) at Sha Tin. And stablemate Invincible Dragon has risen through the ranks with three wins from six starts this term to earn his first G1 berth.
Contentment, trained by John Size, won last year’s running of the G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, while the admirable Circuit Land from the Danny Shum stable was third to Rapper Dragon in the recent G2 Chairman’s Trophy.
Chairman’s Sprint Prize
Signs Of Blessing has been aimed at this contest ever since a luckless run to fifth behind Aerovelocity in December’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m). Last season’s G1 Prix Maurice de Gheest (1300m) victor was drawn widest of all in gate 13 for that Sha Tin feature and stormed home fast from last to get to within a length and three quarters of the winner at the line. The French star heads in fresh, without a run this term, as he attempts to atone for that defeat.
Mr Stunning is the buzz sprinter in Hong Kong since rounding off an impressive win in the G2 Sprint Cup at the course and distance on 9 April: that after two brilliant straight track wins over 1000m. The Size-trained four-year-old held Peniaphobia by a comfortable half-length last time.
The latter is a stalwart of the world sprint scene. Successful in the 2015 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, Cruz’s charge has twice made the frame in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint (1000m) and scored his most recent win in the G2 Centenary Sprint Cup at the course and distance in January.
The Paul O’Sullivan-trained Aerovelocity, meanwhile, bounced back to form to claim a second win in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint in December and this could well be the outstanding four-time G1 winner’s final career start.
Chautauqua blitzed from last to first in last season’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize to foil Lucky Bubbles. Francis Lui’s charge was, at the time, Hong Kong’s great new sprint hope, but, after opening the season with an exciting win in the G2 Premier Bowl Handicap (1200m), the talented chestnut has played the bridesmaid. Three seconds have included the runner-up berth in the G1 Hong Kong Sprint and the five-year-old will be aiming for a deserved first score at the top level.
The field of 14 also features the smart Amazing Kids, fifth in this race last year and a dual G3 winner since. Size’s charge, one of four entries for the champion trainer, is bidding to bounce back from a below-par effort in Dubai’s Al Quoz Sprint (1200m) last time. The handler has also engaged last season’s Hong Kong champion miler, Sun Jewellery, as well as the highly-regarded but as yet unfulfilled Thewizardofoz.
Not Listenin’tome, successful against a top-class field in November’s G2 Jockey Club Sprint at the course and distance, is another looking to bounce back from a disappointing Dubai run last time, Moore’s charge having failed to fire in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen (1200m) on the Meydan dirt. Also down the field in that race was the useful Caspar Fownes-trained Dundonnell, third earlier this year in the G3 Mahab Al Shimaal (1200m, dirt).
Moore also has the seven-time Hong Kong winner Dashing Fellow, while last year’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize third, Strathmore, is also engaged, as is the Ricky Yiu-trained Blizzard, third to Mr Stunning in the recent G2 Sprint Cup. The Peter Ho-trained Limitless, successful in last year’s Britannia Handicap (1600m) at Royal Ascot, will also take his chance.