Hong Kong Team Looks Set for International Day


Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club/WALLACE YEUNG
Lucky Sweynesse wins Jockey Club Sprint at Sha Tin Racecourse

Lucky Sweynesse returned to his winning ways Nov. 19 at Sha Tin Racecourse, joining Straight Arron and Beauty Eternal in victories on a day that solidified the local contingent for December's Longines Hong Kong International Races.

That trio and a several others earned spots on the big-day program alongside Hong Kong's biggest stars, Golden Sixty and Romantic Warrior, who skipped the prelims and will go directly to the international heats. Those two, along with Lucky Sweynesse, look the most likely to defend local honors against the international invaders Dec. 10.

Lucky Sweynesse had trainer Manfred Man and jockey Zac Purton breathing sighs of relief after finally overcoming the massive weight burdens imposed this season by the Hong Kong Jockey Club handicapper. He had finished second in each of two previous outings while conceding as much as 20 pounds.

In the Jockey Club Sprint (G2), the 5-year-old was on closer to even terms weight-wise but still needed every inch of the stretch to catch the leader, Victor the Winner, and win by a nose. Wellington, was just three-quarters of a length farther back in third.

"He got the job done," Purton said. "He's sort of getting back to his best. He's not quite there yet but he took another step in the right direction today and he's going to need to be better next time."

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Wellington was making his first start since reporting 10th of 16 at Royal Ascot in the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes (G1) in June.

The Jockey Club Cup (G2) at 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) serves as a prep for either the Cup at the same distance or the Vase at 2,400 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) in December and was a contentious affair. Straight Arron got to the front inside the final 100 meters in that and prevailed by three-quarters of a length over the favorite, Sword Point, with Money Catcher third.

Vincent Ho rode the winner with Purton just missing the stakes triple aboard Sword Point.

Trainer Caspar Fownes said Straight Arron has progressed well and is on track to contest the Longines Hong Kong Cup (G1) against all comers.

"This horse is a quality animal and he's just getting to where he should be now. That was a good result for us and it gives us a chance to get into the big race, which is always tough against the top stayers in the world," Fownes said.

"But he's earned his spot there and if they can run in the first four or five on International day, it's a job done, really."

Fownes also handles Senor Toba, who finished fifth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths with some traffic issues, and said he will try the Longines Hong Kong Vase (G1) next.

The Jockey Club Mile (G2), with a field of just five, devolved to a duel between two runners carrying the pink and black silks of the Kwok family. Beauty Eternal, with Purton up, got the lead in the lane and held off Beauty Joy by a short head. The others were well back with the favorite, California Spangle, fourth.

"It's probably the first time he's had to dig deep when something has come at him like that and find and he'll take some confidence out of it," Purton said.

He'll need that and more in three weeks' time as he's slated to face not only the international raiders in the Longines Hong Kong Mile (G1) but also three-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year Golden Sixty.

"We'll see how he pulls up after this race and that will give me a guide on what to do between now and Dec. 10," said winning trainer John Size. "He went to the race in good condition and should come out of it nicely.

"It's always nice for the owners who contribute so much to get some nice results."