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Stellar Fields for Sunday's Hong Kong International Races

Hong Kong Jockey Club StandsThe eyes of the world will be on Hong Kong this weekend as horses from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia all descend on Sha Tin Racecourse for the Hong Kong International Races.

The meeting is the most prestigious in Asia and consists of four races. Here is a look at the day’s action to see who to watch out for in each of the four divisions.

Hong Kong Cup

This is the world’s richest turf race over 2000m so it is easy to see why it attracts such a strong quality field. The betting this year is headed by Free Eagle, who is the 5-2 favorite with 32Red Australia in their ante-post market. Trained in Ireland by Dermot Weld, the four-year-old won the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot back in June and is regarded as one of the best middle distance runners in the UK and Ireland.

The challengers to Free Eagle include Criterion, who is based in Australia with trainers David Hayes and Tom Dabernig. He was last seen on a racecourse in the Melbourne Cup when finishing a respectable third behind Prince of Penzance and Max Dynamite. His biggest win of the season so far came in the Group One Ladbrokes Caulfield Stakes but he has also scored in the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick back in April.

The 2014 Hong Kong Cup was won by Designs on Rome, who got the better of Military Attack in a photo finish. John Moore’s runner was declared the winner by a short head to the delight of favorite backers. Both the first and second from last year return again for the 2000m contest.

Hong Kong Mile

There is no richer mile race anywhere in the world than the Hong Kong Mile, with a total purse of HKD $23 million on offer this year.

The Australian-bred Able Friend has been dominant at Sha Tin over the past 18 months, winning seven of his last eight outings at the track. He is returning to the same race he won easily last year when going off as the odds-on favorite.

Able Friend ran outside of Hong Kong for the very first time in 2015 as he contested the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. That proved to be a fruitless trip for connections, though, as he ran a disappointing sixth place as he struggled to adapt to the conditions in the UK at the Royal meeting.

Star of Japanese racing, Maurice, is second best in the betting for the Hong Kong Mile after winning his last three races back home, including the Grade One Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo and the Grade One Mile Championship at Kyoto. This is his first attempt at the Hong Kong International Races meeting as he looks to become the latest runner to win from Japan at the prestigious race day.

Hong Kong Vase

The 2014 Hong Kong Vase winner, Flintshire, is set to return to Sha Tin this weekend to try to defend the crown he won 12 months ago. Andre Fabre’s runner has had a busy 2015 as he has raced in three different countries so far, including a trip to Dubai for the 2015 World Cup Carnival where he finished second in the Sheema Classic behind Dolniya.

Arguably Flintshire’s best run this season, though, came in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe where he came home second behind Golden Horn. That kind of form puts him at odds of 7/4 with 32Red, Betway and 888sport for the Vase again in Hong Kong where connections will be hoping he can make it back-to-back successes.

Pattison Canadian International winner Cannock Chase will be attempting to give UK-based trainer Sir Michael Stoute more global success in 2015 when he lines up at Sha Tin. He justified favoritism at Woodbine in October but has been given a rest since then before he shot at the Hong Kong Vase

Gold Fun returns to the Hong Kong International Races once again at the weekend but this time over the shorter trip of 1200m. The gelding finished second in the Hong Kong Vase last year but, after dropping down in distance earlier this season, the six-year-old has impressed in the sprint division. He tops the betting to follow up his success over the same course and distance in November in the Bochk Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint.

The sprint also includes Peniaphobia, who has already finished second to Gold Fun twice in 2015, including in the Jockey Club Sprint, where less than two lengths separated the horses. Despite being consistently in the frame in 2015 in some leading sprint races, his sole victory at Sha Tin was way back in January when he won the Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup. On that occasion he had a bit of luck on his side as he held off Bundle of Joy in a photo finish by a short head.

- from www.ladyandthetrack.com

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