Group 1 favourites emphasise the rising force of Hong Kong’s ‘local’ trainers
Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior and Lucky Sweynesse are leading contenders at the Hong Kong International Races and not one is trained by an expatriate.
There is a rarity about this year’s Hong Kong International Races that could well be another harbinger of an emerging new normal, and no, it has nothing to do with the city and its jockey club’s belated, albeit advancing, moves to roll back strict Covid-19 pandemic measures.
The oddity is the fact that three local Hong Kong Chinese trainers are likely to have three of the four favourites in Sunday’s Group 1 races. Francis Lui has in his care the superstar Golden Sixty, the hot favourite for the Hong Kong Mile, Danny Shum has the Hong Kong Derby hero Romantic Warrior as the probable market leader in the Hong Kong Cup, and Manfred Man is the trainer of Lucky Sweynesse, who has the market edge in the Hong Kong Sprint.
From the time Brian Kan won the first version of the Cup in 1988 until the afternoon in 2018 when Frankie Lor won the Sprint with Mr Stunning and the Cup with Glorious Forever, the only Hong Kong ‘locals’ to taste success at the December international races were Tony Cruz, Ricky Yiu and Derek Cruz.
The event, from a Hong Kong perspective, was dominated by the expat stables, John Moore in particular, but also John Size, Caspar Fownes, Richard Gibson, Tony Millard, David Hall and, back in the day, Ivan Allan, Neville Begg, David Hill, David Oughton, David Hayes, David Ferraris, Paul O’Sullivan and Andreas Schutz.
But Lor’s Group 1 double four years ago seems to have marked an end to the expatriate trainer dominance of Hong Kong’s hand in major Group 1 races.