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Andrew Le Jeune

Presenter & Columnist

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LJ Confidential: three ‘match races’ headline Hong Kong’s Champions Day

The three Group 1s at Sha Tin on Sunday loom as two-horse races, but that doesn’t dull what should be some exciting contests with plenty at stake.

Hong Kong’s Champions Day features three big Group 1s, three dominant local favourites and a clear challenger in each race to make things interesting. 

Despite some depth, quality and intrigue in each event, I see the three features as match races. Let’s break each race down, and take a look at a high quality contest on the undercard. 

QEII Cup: Romantic Warrior v Dubai Honour

Australia’s leading jockey James McDonald is no stranger to pressure and he returns to the Romantic Warrior hot seat for the QEII Cup. 

McDonald rode Romantic Warrior in his first two wins of the season, the second a breathtaking performance in the G1 Hong Kong Cup. 

Karis Teetan was then beaten twice aboard the horse and now McDonald gets back aboard. Will that make the difference? If Romantic Warrior can replicate his run from December he will be very difficult to beat but I am tipping an upset. 

Dubai Honour is my pick after two wins in Australia. Let’s not forget he has been to Sha Tin before as well and ran a solid fourth over this course and distance. 

The two big Group 1 wins in Sydney, by a combined seven lengths, suggests he has returned to Hong Kong a better horse. 

The Japanese bring a strong group including Geraldina and Prognosis, but Danon The Kid is my pick of the group and I think he can fill third place behind Dubai Honour and Romantic Warrior.

Chairman’s Sprint Prize: Lucky Sweynesse v Wellington

Wellington won on International Day but since then it has been 3-0 to Lucky Sweynesse. The barrier draw – Wellington in gate two and Lucky Sweynesse from barrier six – gives Zac Purton an advantage on Lucky Sweynesse. 

Last time they clashed in the G2 Sprint Cup, Alexis Badel was closer from an inside draw, only to be stalked by Purton aboard the favourite, who proved too strong. 

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Lucky Sweynesse defeats Wellington in the G2 Sprint Cup. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

I foresee a similar scenario here: Purton will follow his main danger wherever he goes and out-sprint his older rival late. As much as Badel has proven to be a clever tactician – his winning ride on Voyage Bubble in the Hong Kong Derby was a masterpiece – he appears to be powerless here. Lucky Sweynesse simply appears to have Wellington’s measure. 

Adding some interest are Sight Success and Duke Wai, coming back home after finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in last month’s G1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai. They will provide another guide as to where Hong Kong’s sprinters sit. 

It is great to see some international involvement in the sprint, particularly from Hugo Palmer, who has brought Flaming Rib. He was well beaten in Dubai, and appears to be out of his depth here, but before that won in Qatar and ran some great races as a three-year-old last year. 

Champions Mile: Golden Sixty v California Spangle

Golden Sixty has a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over California Spangle so far this season and I expect it to be 3-1 after Sunday. 

What adds some spice to this race is the pace influence: Happy Healthy has drawn barrier one and is likely to be pushed to hold a prominent position, while Derby hero Voyage Bubble stole the Classic Mile from in front over the course and distance in January. 

Golden Sixty will be a short-priced favourite but perhaps Annabel Neasham-trained visitor My Oberon can provide some value. My Oberon’s stablemate Law Of Indices ran a solid race to finish a close third behind the big two in the Hong Kong Mile and My Oberon strikes a similar profile. 

My Oberon touches down in Hong Kong. (Photo by HKJC)

Golden Sixty ranges up to California Spangle in the G2 Jockey Club Mile. (Photo by Lo Chun Kit)

My Oberon ran a fantastic race in the Doncaster Handicap and brings sound form out of Europe. 

The form out of the Hong Kong Derby has been strong so far, albeit in handicaps, but hopefully Voyage Bubble can equip himself well and hold his own against the older horses at level weights.

Class 2 quality

Away from the Group 1s, a high quality 1400m Class 2 that contains some beaten Hong Kong Derby runners holds plenty of interest. The John Size-trained pair of Derby placegetters Beauty Eternal and Tuchel take on fourth-placed Keefy and a few other four-year-olds that failed to make the Derby; last start winner Red Lion, Flaming Rabbit and Drombeg Banner. 

Beauty Eternal, a close third as favourite in the Derby, has drawn awkwardly (barrier 10). Drawn well again, as he did in the Derby when second, is Beauty Eternal’s stablemate Tuchel (three) and he is my pick here. 

Andrew's Sha Tin selections

R7 No 1 Golden Sixty & No 6 My Oberon Quinella/Quinella Place 

R8 No 2 Dubai Honour WIN

R10 No 8 Tuchel WIN

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