Almond Eye is among a stellar line-up of 50 horses - including 26 G1 winners - selected for the US$12 million Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on Sunday, 8 December.
Japan’s superstar is the headliner among a contingent of 24 overseas raiders aiming at this year’s ‘Turf World Championships’.
The Longines HKIR is the sport’s global year-end G1 extravaganza and features the US$3.6 million Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the HK$3.2 million Hong Kong Mile, the $2.6 million Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the $2.6 million Hong Kong Vase (2400m).
Almond Eye is one of 11 in a powerful cohort from Japan, which also features crack milers Indy Champ, Normcore and Admire Mars, this year’s classic heroine Loves Only You and further star fillies Lucky Lilac and the talented globe-trotter Deirdre, as well as G1 FWD QEII Cup victor Win Bright.
The exciting fields for the four G1 features also include big-name Europeans: the Irish party features G1-winning Ballydoyle stars Circus Maximus, Magic Wand and Anthony Van Dyck - the last-named set to become the first Epsom Derby winner to compete at the HKIR. Irish and British Champion Stakes heroine Magical was also listed as a possible runner - she would have run in the Hong Kong Cup against Almond Eye - but she has since been ruled out by Aidan O'Brien. Her racing career is now over, and her next date is with Coolmore stallion No Nay Never. Mackinnon Stakes winner Magic Wand is likely to line up in the Cup instead.
G1 Preis von Europa winner Aspetar is one of four challengers from Britain, while France has two high-class selected runners, including Edisa, winner of the Jockey Club Oaks Invitational at Belmont Park in New York.
Australian representation comes in the form of the speedy mare In Her Time, a two-time G1 winner and third in the recent G1 Darley Sprint Classic.
A strong Hong Kong team is headed by established G1 big guns Beauty Generation and Exultant, and the exhilarating rising star sprinter Aethero.
Beauty Generation, Mr Stunning, Exultant and Glorious Forever completed an unprecedented Hong Kong clean-sweep of last year’s races, and the four are engaged to defend their crowns. Beauty Generation in the Mile and Mr Stunning in the Sprint will attempt to match legendary miler Good Ba Ba’s record of three straight wins at the meeting.
Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said, “We are delighted that the quality of the selected runners for this year’s Longines Hong Kong International Races is in keeping with our long-held commitment to deliver sporting excellence.
“Almond Eye’s participation is particularly exciting when viewed in the context of the other world-class horses selected - champions of the calibre of Beauty Generation and Exultant, other global stars like the Derby winner Anthony Van Dyck, and the list is long and strong. Factor in the potential of rising stars like Aethero, Waikuku and our Derby winner, Furore, and everything points to a thrilling afternoon of sport.”