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Saturday’s season finale celebrated Hong Kong’s stars of 2021-22, headed by Frankie Lor and Zac Purton, but the end of the campaign also confirmed a couple of major achievements for leading stallions Per Incanto and Deep Field.
There is no official trophy or title which acknowledges Hong Kong’s Champion stallion, but the value that comes from being a leading sire in Hong Kong is often a significant marker for ongoing success both in the breeding barn and in the sales ring.
For the second season in a row, Per Incanto, the American-bred son of Street Cry who did his best racing in Italy and now stands at Little Avondale Stud at Masterton in New Zealand, has been crowned Hong Kong’s leading sire by winners.
All in all, from 31 runners, he had 19 winners, two more than he had last season, and five more than his nearest rival Deep Field. It is also the most winners by any sire in a single Hong Kong season in at least 13 years.
He joins illustrious company to have achieved that honour back-to-back since 2010 in Fastnet Rock, Exceed And Excel and Danehill Dancer. Per Incanto was also Hong Kong’s leading sire by total wins, 30 in all, for the second season in a row.
Deep Field wrote his own piece of history this season as the leading Hong Kong sire by earnings, with his progeny, led by Sky Field, winning over HK$55.6 million in prizemoney. That eclipsed the record set by a Golden Sixty-powered Medaglia D’Oro last campaign, the previous high-water mark for stallion progeny earnings in Hong Kong.
Deep Field’s star in Hong Kong, as it is in Australia, is firmly in the ascendancy. Backed by big crops of horses from high-quality mares, with progeny which relish pace and perform wet or dry, and with the right development profile, he has built his volume of seasonal Hong Kong winners from five two seasons ago to 10 in 2020/21 and now 14 this season.
His progeny have proven exceptionally popular among Hong Kong buyers to the point that while his oldest crop are yet to turn six, he had more runners than any other sire in Hong Kong this campaign, with 33 (ahead of Per Incanto’s 31).
He fits the profile of a successful 21st century Hong Kong sire perfectly, set to follow in the footsteps of his grandsire Encosta De Lago.
Per Incanto, it is fair to say, is cut from a different cloth. Sure, he produces the type of speedy, tough and strong horses that thrive in the pressured and humid environment of Hong Kong racing, but he has done it the hard way.
When he arrived at Little Avondale Stud in 2011, he stood for a very modest NZ$4000, as a Group winner in Italy who had never found his best in his brief time in England and the United States. The son of Street Cry was, however, a powerful stallion with an international pedigree and a formidable appetite.
“His constitution is second to none,” Little Avondale Stud’s Sam Williams told Asian Racing Report.
“You do need to be careful in the breeding season that he doesn’t get too big on you. You have to keep the exercise up to him, you can’t leave him in the paddock all day, especially during September and October when the grass is so rich. He just gets too well in himself and can put too much condition on.”
You have to keep the exercise up to him (Per Incanto), you can’t leave him in the paddock all day, especially during September and October when the grass is so rich.
There are other key reasons why Per Incanto has made a major mark on Hong Kong, but for Williams, the ability of his progeny to thrive in terms of appetite, when it comes to stable life, has been very important.
“Some breeds do better up there with the environment. Per Incanto stock, they love it. Towkay, his old paddock mate here, he was quite successful up there too and both of those horses have a couple of things in common, they have great constitutions and outstanding temperaments,” he said.
|Sire||No of winners|
|Holy Roman Emperor||10|
|All Too Hard||9|
|*Data courtesy of Arion|
What also pleases Williams is that much of Per Incanto’s Hong Kong success has been achieved from his first few crops, where he stood at a lower service fee and had lower quality mares.
“In Hong Kong, you have stallions from all around the world which compete there. To be top for individual winners and wins two years in a row is just a fantastic result,” he said.
The impact of that success has been stronger support of the stallion in the breeding barn and for his progeny in the sales ring, notably from Hong Kong buyers.
New Zealand breeders, especially those with Hong Kong connections, have been looking to make the most of Per Incanto’s rise to prominence.
“Last season we had a half to Beauty Generation go to him as well as a half to Golden Sixty, and relations to Werther and Glorious Days. He really has been patronised very well in that respect,” Williams said.
Last season we had a half to Beauty Generation go to him (Per Incanto) as well as a half to Golden Sixty, and relations to Werther and Glorious Days.
The average price of his yearlings has jumped from $76,000 two years ago to $139,000 this year, driven partially by the enthusiasm of the Hong Kong market. The Hong Kong Jockey Club was the buyer of the two most expensive Per Incanto yearlings this season, paying AU$560,000 for a colt at Easter and NZ$370,000 for another at Karaka.
Australian interest has also skyrocketed, sparked initially by John O’Shea’s talented sprinter Lost And Running and then franked when the Michael Moroney-trained Roch ‘N’ Horse won the G1 Newmarket Handicap in March.
It means the upcoming breeze-up sales take on quite a different pallor for the sire’s progeny.
“That November Sale at Karaka is always very appealing to the Asian market. They have always had a strong buying bench there,” Williams said.
“I have a number of Per Incantos headed to that sale and I know that a fair number of them will be headed to Australia as well and that has changed from what we have seen previously.”
What has also changed is the quality of mares who will go to Per Incanto in 2022, with his service fee doubled to NZ$50,000.
“Because of what he has been able to achieve in Australia, the calibre of mare that is going to come through the gate is quite remarkable,” Williams said.
“It is mouth-watering stuff. Concert Hall, she’s a Group 1-winning Savabeel mare, and she is going to him as her first stallion. That’s a wonderful achievement and he is getting acknowledged by the breeders in New Zealand as well as from Australia.”
Williams has also taken the decision to restrict Per Incanto’s book in 2022, with a strong focus of quality over quantity.
That may mean that in the future, it will be harder to repeat these seasons with record volumes of Hong Kong winners but will give the sire a chance to get a Hong Kong star, something which has eluded him to date.
Interestingly of Per Incanto’s 32 winners in Hong Kong, none have yet been successful at stakes level.
|Sire||Progeny Earnings ($HK)|
|All Too Hard||$39,300,550|
|*Data courtesy of Arion.co.nz|
Third behind Per Incanto and Deep Field on total winners in Hong Kong this season was Smart Missile with 11, an increase of four from the previous season. Holy Roman Emperor was the leading European-based sire with 10, while All Too Hard had nine.
The most improved sires in that regard were two stallions which have also had exceptional seasons in Australia. Shamus Award has had five Hong Kong winners from five runners this campaign, having had no winners last season, while Nicconi had seven winners in 2021-22, again five more than 2020-21.
Another sire to enjoy a renaissance in Hong Kong was Acclamation, who was second on progeny earnings (HK$45.9 million), thanks largely to Hong Kong Derby winner Romantic Warrior. The Rathbarry Stud resident also had five winners from five Hong Kong starters this campaign.
Of those sires who had a diminishing influence in Hong Kong this season, the most notable were Exceed And Excel and Snitzel.
Exceed And Excel, a dominant force for so many years, had his total winners drop by seven to six overall, while his number of starters dropped to 23. Snitzel, meanwhile, had six fewer winners than 2020-21, for seven overall, perhaps an indication of a changing of the guard.
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