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Andrew Beattie's day at the 2014 Hong Kong Cup

Hong Kong never ceases to amaze me! When I first came here almost 40 years ago the city was alive buildings with bamboo scaffolding, the smell of overcrowding mixed with the aroma of hundreds of different cuisines and horse racing at Happy Valley. Today? Even more alive, much taller buildings, still with the ubiquitous bamboo scaffolding, the same smells and aromas from vast selection of foods and horse racing at magnificent Sha Tin, with Happy Valley these days mainly catering for mid-week racing fans. Today, Sunday December 14th we are at Sha Tin for the Longines/Hong Kong Jockey Club International Racing day, sponsored by www.longines.com , highlighted by 4 Group 1 races worth some $HK83 million together with leading international jockeys, champion trainers and the stars of the show, high class thoroughbred racehorses from Australia, England, France, Germany, Singapore and Japan. On the Friday evening I attended the HKJC Gala Dinner, held at the stupendous Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, celebrating 130 years of the club and incorporating the inaugural Longines International jockey of the Year award, deservedly won by champion English jockey, Ryan Moore. Ryan had cleaned up in the big races recently in Australia, winning the Cox Plate on Irelands Adelaide and the Melbourne Cup on the German raider Protectionist. I had the pleasure of enjoying terrific food, wines and entertainment with some German media, journalists and a talented turf photographer from Berlin, Frank Sorge at www.galoppfoto.de . Fortunately for me their English was almost perfect compared to my scant knowledge of German. Back to the big races on a good running surface, with a clear blue sky and a warm winters day in the mid 20s Race 4 was the Longines Hong Kong Vase over 2400 metres, attracting such luminaries as this years Melbourne Cup runner-up, Red Cadeaux (who had been runner-up in the same race twice previously) as well as this years Prix de lArc de Triomphe and Breeders Cup runner-up, Flintshire. Hot favourite Flintshire, ridden by Maxime Guyon, surged to the lead 200 metres from home and held off the late challenge of the local Willie Cazals ridden by supremo South African Douglas Whyte. Flintshire won by 0.5L in the slowish time of 2.29.83 and was trained by French maestro Andre Fabre. Khaya ran on for 3rd placing and Melbourne Cup bridesmaid Red Cadeaux finished 6th. Flintshire will presumably move up from 10th place in the Longines Worlds Best Racehorse Rankings. Naturally the $2.10 on offer based on the French and American form attracted my wager. Race 5 was the Longines Hong Kong Sprint over 1200 metres. I have part ownership of a horse named Dancing Warrior, trained by Danny Bougoure, who trained the winner of this race in in 2001 and 2002 with the Queenslander Falvelon. There was another Queenslander in this years field, Buffering, trained by Robert Heathcote. By chance I shared a taxi from Fridays gala dinner with a vet who looked after the horses of two trainers, ex-pats Aussie John Size and Kiwi Paul OSullivan. The vet was very keen on the chances of Aerovelocity, to be ridden by Oz jockey and current Hong Kong champion Zac Purton, and the horse obliged, leading all the way in the fast time of 1.08.57 and paying $3.95. Douglas Whyte had to be content as runner-up again, a neck second aboard the 3yo Peniaphobia with the Japanese visitor Straight Girl running 3rd. Race 7 was the Longines Hong Kong Mile and the odds-on favourite was Able Friend, trained by John Moore and ridden by the Magic Man, Brazilian Joao Moreira. At the 800 metres mark the hot-pot was 20 lengths off the lead, then Moreira took him to the outside coming into the turn for home and he careered down the middle of the track to win by a widening 4.25 lengths, in the fast time of 1.33.49 from Gold Fun, ridden by Douglas Whyte, giving him a treble of seconds in the big races and Japanese visitor Grand Prix Boss a close 3rd. A remarkable win, even for a $1.35 favourite. Trainer Moore will compulsory retire from Hong Kong soon and his brother Gary is already opening up shop in Sydney. Race 8 was the Longines Hong Kong Cup over 2000 metres and had attracted entries such as previous world no. 1 Cirrus Des Aigles from France, Australian Derby winner Criterion, now trained by former Hong Kong champion trainer David Hayes, now ensconced back in Australia, and HK Horse of the Year Designs On Rome, with the Moore/Magic Man connection. In a muddling race Criterion looked the winner 150 metres out, only to be swamped by the swoopers Military Attack with Zac Purton aboard and Designs On Rome steered by Joao Moreira, with the latter getting the bob of the head in right on the line. The $1.95 favourite won by a short head and there was a length to the third horse Criterion, the winner denying the writer all four feature race winners. Over all I selected the winner of 5 of the 10 races. A great race-day for the 74,000 attendees and a huge leap up the world rankings for Hong Kong racing, thanks to the HKJC and Longines. Thank you all and see you next time in Hong Kong. Please click here for Paddy Power's ante-post odds on important future races Paddy Power's horse racing odds

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