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Dubai bidding for Hong Kong honours

Dubai bidding for Hong Kong honours
Dubai bidding for Hong Kong honours

William Haggas’ Dubai Honour heads the British challenge as he bids for the FWD QEII Cup at Sha Tin’s Champions Day meeting in Hong Kong on Sunday.

The six-year-old is no stranger to the track, having run there twice before, finishing fourth in the Hong Kong Cup in 2021 and third in this contest last season.

After his Sha Tin performance, he ran twice more last term, coming home well beaten in both the Coral-Eclipse and the Champion Stakes before heading off on a winter break.

He returned to action in the Listed Magnolia Stakes at Kempton at the beginning of the month and prevailed by three lengths to prepare himself for his journey east.

“I thought he did well to win at Kempton, he won well and I thought it was a fair race,” Haggas said.

Dubai Honour winning the Magnolia Stakes
Dubai Honour winning the Magnolia Stakes (Adam Davy/PA)

“He beat (Friday’s Sandown Group Three winner) Okeechobee, who is a fair horse, and he’ll be going there a fresh horse, which is important. Also, it’s raining there, which is in his favour.

“In truth, he probably wants a mile and a half on that track because he is just not quick enough, but he’s been there twice before and he’s run well. The problem we’ve got is the local horses are very difficult to beat.

“It’s difficult to explain how we choose the ones to travel. You just get an idea. They have to be a certain age, with the younger horses it’s hard going east – but it’s good fun.”

Romantic Warrior, winner of the contest for the last two years, returns for Danny Shum and James McDonald and there is another notable Hong Kong-based runner in Dennis Yip’s Massive Sovereign.

Trained by Aidan O’Brien until the end of last season when known as Broadhurst, the bay son of No Nay Never has since been gelded and won both starts at Sha Tin so far – including the Hong Kong Derby.

“My horse is just at the start and I’m excited with this race,” Yip said. “I think he will show you something. I think soft ground will be no problem for him.

“I feel he keeps improving. Last Friday, he trialled at Happy Valley, he really enjoyed the trial and finished very strong.

“After the trial, he finished all the feed and I think now is the right time for his performance to be very good.”

There is British representation in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize as George Boughey’s Believing is set to line up for owners Highclere Racing.

The filly is a four-time winner, with both the Listed Flying Fillies’ Stakes and the Group Three Prix Texanita on her CV, and at Group One level last season, she was beaten only three-quarters of a length in the Sprint Cup at Haydock.

Believing will be ridden in the six-furlong event by British-born and Hong Kong-based jockey Harry Bentley, who said: “Ideally, we’d jump and sit close to the pace, if we can sit in a box-seat position, we’d be very happy.

“Hopefully she jumps clean and gets away into a nice position.

“It’s obviously a Group One, so naturally they’re always strong races and hard to win, but she’s Group One-placed and her form has been solid throughout her career, so I’m hoping for a good performance and she definitely deserves her place in the line-up.”

The FWD Champions Mile has been dominated by Golden Sixty in recent years and the race could be the scene of his swansong performance as he bids for a fourth consecutive victory.

The eight-year-old gelding has an exceptional record at Sha Tin, having won 26 times from 30 runs, gaining connections over £16million in prize-money with his remarkable consistency.

“The barrier draw isn’t a worry, only the weather will be. Now, he’s very professional and he looks after himself,” said trainer Francis Lui.

“I think his condition has come up just in time.

“He’s shown us already what he can do. I’m happy and Vincent (Ho, rider) is happy. He’s brought a lot of fun for us, the whole team.

“There won’t be another one like him.”

Challenging him for the title is Archie Watson’s Brave Emperor, a prolific globetrotter who has provided owners Middleham Park Racing with Group victories in Qatar, Italy, Germany, France and Sweden.

Hong Kong is now his latest foray and there he will be joined by regular rider Luke Morris, who said: “He’s acquitted himself extremely well wherever he’s been. He’s gone from strength to strength and I’ve been delighted with his progress.

“Since we put the blinkers on, he’s improved dramatically and every time we give him a test he steps up to the mark, so he’s very much deserving of his shot at the top level.

“He’s had a nice break since Qatar and once we knew he could perform on a fast surface, the Champions Mile was always on the radar, so he’s been prepared perfectly. We’ve got him exactly where we want him.

“Sunday’s race will be right up there alongside the best races in the world and if he were to go and win, and knock Golden Sixty off his perch, it would be a remarkable feat.”

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