New generation take the spotlight in HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile

The Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Series kicks off on Sunday, 18 January when 11 contenders will clash in the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Mile, the first big test en route to the HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) in two months’ time.

This year’s Hong Kong Classic Mile is worth a race record HK$8 million following a HK$2 million boost to the prize fund.

DIVINE CALLING from the Tony Millard stable and the Richard Gibson-trained GIANT TREASURE, both eye-catching greys, have emerged as two of the biggest buzz horses among the four-year-old crop and that duo will lock horns for the first time. Each heads into the race having triumphed impressively on their respective Hong Kong debuts before running third in muddling affairs last start.

BEAUTY ONLY, a winner of three from four in Italy, including a G3 contest, hit the ground running in Hong Kong with two wins earlier this season before posting a below par run in December. Tony Cruz’s charge bounced back with a sound effort last time (4 January) when fourth to FLAME HERO in a 1600m Class 2 – the same race in which GIANT TREASURE ran third.

“It was a good run last time considering the way the race went,” said jockey Neil Callan. “It was a slow pace and you could look at it that I did the donkey work on BEAUTY ONLY and Richard Gibson’s horse, GIANT TREASURE, was ridden in such a way that he was able to come by me.”

With the duo posted wide in mid-pack, GIANT TREASURE tracked BEAUTY ONLY into the stretch and edged by him late to nick third spot under Douglas Whyte. Callan’s mount was conceding 10lb to the exciting British import that day but will run off level weights at the weekend.

“I like my horse, I’m very happy with him and he would have a big chance on Sunday,” continued Callan. “He’s getting better each time, but we’ll just have to wait and see who’s improving the most.”

A high-class renewal of the Hong Kong Classic Mile also features the talented GUN PIT from the Caspar Fownes stable, as well as the same trainer’s GONNA RUN. The latter won his first three races in France before losing his perfect record when a solid fifth in the G1 Prix du Jockey Club (2100m) in June. Gonna Run heads into Sunday without a race since that Classic foray at Chantilly but was tuned up in a dirt trial at Sha Tin last week.

John Moore saddled ABLE FRIEND and DESIGNS ON ROME to a famous one-two finish in last year’s Hong Kong Classic Mile and this time he relies on SAVVY NATURE, ARPINATI and HELENE HAPPY STAR. Those three are still maidens in Hong Kong but can boast smart Stakes-winning form overseas: SAVVY NATURE landed the G2 Moonee Valley Vase (2040m) and was G1 placed in Australia; ARPINATI scored at G3 level in Italy and was G1 placed; and HELENE HAPPY STAR took a Listed race in the UK.

The Cruz stable, seeking a fourth Classic Mile success, will also look to ANTICIPATION, a progressive four-time winner when under the watch of Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien but as yet untested in Hong Kong. Me Tsui has last season’s G3 Italian 2,000 Guineas third FLYING MOOCHI while John Size saddles Thunder Fantasy, a solid sixth in the FLAME HERO race earlier this month.

The three-race Hong Kong Four-Year-Old Series also consists of the HKG1 Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m) on Sunday, 15 February and the HKG1 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) on Sunday, 15 March.



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