David Morgan

Chief Journalist


Hong Kong’s five most intriguing new PPs

The Report takes a look at a few fascinating new Private Purchase imports that may or may not make it to the top in Hong Kong this season.

A new season in Hong Kong always brings plenty of anticipation, excitement and conjecture as to which of the new intake of PPs (Private Purchases) will be able to reproduce their best form in the tough environment. This list doesn’t seek to predict which will succeed but rather picks the five arrivals among this year’s ready-raced imports that fascinate a little more than the rest.

Plenty of PPs every season fail to reproduce their overseas form, no matter how good it was, and prove unable to tap their full potential when faced with the urban noise, heat, humidity, fast tracks, work routines and all-round intensity of Hong Kong. It adds an enthralling aspect to the city’s racing scene each year as big money buys and big-name transplants with Group 1 form make the switch from Europe, Australasia and South America: but for every Designs On Rome or Beauty Generation, there are a dozen and more like Shadow Hero that disappoint.

5. Jungle Magnate 

Brand number: H075, yet to be renamed

Current trainer: Tony Cruz

Previous trainer: Mick Price and Michael Kent Jr (AUS) 

Form: 1/82301911-

Biggest win or placing: won G1 South Australian Derby

Arrival date: July 26, 2022

Entry rating: not yet allotted

Trackwork latest: in full work since August 9; had his second gallop at Sha Tin on September 3.

Jungle Magnate is one of the standouts among the new PPs as a proven Group 1 winner already. He has won three of his last four starts, and had the profile of a classy horse still on the upgrade when he was sold to continue his career in Asia.


Jungle Magnate wins the Mornington Guineas. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

But that latest success in the South Australian Derby was achieved over 2400 metres and followed directly a Group 3 win at 2000 metres. That peak victory came off a long, sustained closing run around the field’s outer flank; there was nothing speedy about it; and the race itself is not a top-line Group 1 by Australian standards.

Hong Kong is not an easy gig, either, for horses laden with stamina: speed is paramount and there are only three races all season at 2400 metres. If Jungle Magnate is an out-and-out stayer without that complementary speed, he could just be making up the numbers, plugging on for a minor placing in the Classic Series races.   

Will carry a variation of black and pink silks used by the Kwok family and the name will likely have the ‘Beauty’ prefix. 

4. Ivy League 

Brand number: H112, yet to be renamed

Current trainer: Douglas Whyte

Previous trainer: Aidan O’Brien (IRE)

Form: 611270-

Best win or placing: second in G3 Amethyst Stakes

Arrival date: August 13, 2022

Entry rating: not yet allotted

Trackwork latest: entered work on August 28 and is building with trotting and swimming.

After his Group 1 successes last term with Russian Emperor, Douglas Whyte returned to the Ballydoyle talent pool this summer to hook Ivy League, another son of Coolmore’s late super-sire Galileo. The two horses have similar profiles beyond their origins: both were late types who hinted at top level potential in their three-year-old spring; both won or placed in Group 3 contests and then ran down the field in Group 1 classics before being sold to Hong Kong.

Whyte will have the Hong Kong Derby at the top of Ivy League’s plans but there is a long way to go. While Russian Emperor was last season’s champion stayer in Hong Kong, he is a rare son of Galileo to have moved full-time to the city and flourished at the top level (Highland Reel and Mogul flew in and out for their Group 1 grabs).

But Whyte trusts the Galileo genes, it seems; all four of the great stallion’s progeny in training in Hong Kong right now are at the former champion jockey’s Olympic Stables block, so it will be interesting to see if that faith will be rewarded again with Ivy League.

3. Thesis

Brand number: H111, yet to be renamed

Current trainer: Richard Gibson

Previous trainer: Roger and Ed Charlton (GB)

Form: 3/2221-

Biggest win or placing: Won Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot

Arrival date: August 13, 2022

Entry rating: not yet allotted

Trackwork latest: Started trotting at Sha Tin on August 29, 2022

Thesis – another as-yet-unnamed in Hong Kong – stands out for being the winner of the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot. That race is targeted more than any other by Hong Kong buyers in Britain, and with good reason: all three previous Britannia winners sold to Hong Kong in the past decade have gone on to win races.

Beauty Flame is the standout with a couple of Group 1 seconds behind the champion Able Friend; the enigmatic Limitless showed flashes of the ability that won him the Ascot contest and Born In China was a smart performer. Plenty more of the Britannia beaten have sold to Hong Kong and thrived.

Thesis wins The Britannia Stakes at Royal Ascot. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)

Thesis has the added intrigue of being an entire. Furthermore, he is in the hands of trainer Richard Gibson who has form in producing a top-class colt for major success at Sha Tin: the Englishman won the Hong Kong Derby and G1 Hong Kong Cup with the stallion Akeed Mofeed.

Thesis is still intact in large part due to being a product of Juddmonte breeding, as a Kingman half-brother to a Group 1 winner, from the family of the stallion-producing blue hen mare Hasili. It will be interesting to see if Gibson can keep the lightly-raced three-year-old sweet: if not, a sharp cut might be on its way.

2. Wonderful Unicorn

Pre-import name: Il Braccio

Current trainer: David Hall

Previous trainer: Logan McGill (AUS)

Form: 1-

Biggest win or placing: maiden win at Yarra Valley

Arrival date: February 22, 2022

Entry rating: 63

Trackwork latest: ran second in Sha Tin barrier trial on September 2

Forget the big names with Group 1 form lines: one of the most intriguing PPs among the unraced crew is a horse with one minor win on its record.

Wonderful Unicorn was nothing but a AU$2,000 purchase out of the 2019 Gold Coast Weanling Sale when he stepped off the float at Yarra Valley for his career debut. Trained by Mornington handler Logan McGill, the three-year-old was a $21 chance under claimer Will Gordon but spreadeagled the field of nine.

Il Braccio will race as Wonderful Unicorn in Hong Kong. (Photo by Ross Holburt/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Having made the switch to David Hall’s stable without another race, the now four-year-old appears to have taken to the Sha Tin regimen. He looked good in his first two barrier trials, in June and July under Luke Currie, but things are particularly tantalising now that he has caught the attention of no less a judge than Hong Kong’s champion jockey.

Zac Purton has been in the saddle for the gelding’s last two gallops as well as a good-looking dirt track barrier trial over 1050 metres on September 2, suggesting he just might be a tad better than that 63 rating.  

1. Bon’s A Pearla

Pre-import name: Bon’s A Pearla

Current trainer: David Hayes

Previous trainer: Kevin Corstens (AUS) 

Form: 5/3110653224-

Biggest performance: third in G1 Australian Guineas; won G2 Thousand Guineas Prelude

Arrival date: July 22, 2022

Entry rating: 80

Trackwork latest: Only trotting so far; missed seven days up to August 23 before resuming but then has not been seen at exercise since August 30

If we’re looking for intrigue, Bon’s A Pearla has it in spades. The filly proved to be a high-class athlete in Australia with a Group 2 win and a Group 1 placing.

Her third in the G1 Randwick Guineas reads particularly well, given that she was behind the exciting star-on-the-rise Hitotsu, but the very fact that she is a filly makes her a peculiarity in Hong Kong, where geldings dominate, colts are few and females are a rarity.

Elegant Fashion and Gerald Mosse winning the 2004 Chairman's Trophy at Sha Tin. (Photo by Kenneth Chan/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)

Elegant Fashion won the Hong Kong Derby earlier this century, of course – the first filly to do so since 1976 – and she did it for David Hayes who will be hoping he can saddle up Bon’s A Pearla in the 2022 edition.

However, adding to the curiosity is the four-year-old’s trackwork history in Hong Kong which suggests she has not settled as smoothly and as drama-free as Hayes would have liked.

The former Hong Kong champion trainer needs one of his big draw cards to deliver this season to show that he still has the knack after failing to deliver a top-level performer in his first two campaigns back in the city, including the G1 Randwick Guineas winner Shadow Hero who flopped in his Hong Kong Derby campaign. A filly again nailing a major Hong Kong win would be as high-profile a return to the top as he could wish for.

Honourable mentions

A couple of others piqued interest without making the cut: La City Blanche won the G1 Gran Premio Jockey Club in Argentina last October when named Zodiacal and will attempt to become the latest South American import to make a splash, following on from Panfield who won the G1 Champions & Chater Cup in 2021.

Packing Sissoko has not been seen in action since he placed second in the G1 Futurity at Doncaster last autumn at only his third start. The three-year-old trialled for trainer Francis Lui back in July and was shoved along to make moderate ground in the straight. He has since been transferred to Peter Ho’s beleaguered stable; an intriguing move, for sure.



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