For the Japanese, nothing beats Hong Kong

December 8, 2022

Glory Vase wins his second G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m)

Hong Kong Jockey Club Press Release

Over the past few years, despite a raging pandemic, the Japanese have made their mark on the global racing scene. However, regardless of where they go, and as far back as the early 1990s, they always flock to the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) as their favorite way to end the year.

As the LONGINES HKIR matured into the massive event we know today, the Japanese repeatedly sent at least one runner per race. Since then, the Japanese have become one of the biggest supporters of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s year-end celebration, with 14 runners making the trip over in 2022. As the Japanese send a record number of contenders in this year’s renewal, it is essential to look back and see how it all started.

The first Japanese horses made their way to Hong Kong in April 1993, when the day consisted of two big races, the Hong Kong International Cup and the Hong Kong International Bowl, with only one runner Hokusei Ciboulette in the Bowl race. In December 1993 edition, there were one Japanese runner each in the Hong Kong International Cup and the Hong Kong International Bowl. It was a far cry from the numbers we are used to seeing from the Japanese at global invitationals, but this was a massive first step for the Japanese. In their fourth attempt, they claimed their first win in the Hong Kong International Cup in 1995 when the Hideyuki Mori-trained Fujiyama Kenzan took home the top prize for the first time.

2001 proved to be a massive year for the Japanese, with Stay Gold winning the Hong Kong Vase (2400m), Eishin Preston earning the first of three wins in Hong Kong in the Hong Kong Mile (1600m), and Agnes Digital taking home the Hong Kong Cup. In the years after his retirement, Stay Gold proved to be a top stallion in Japan despite never having won any G1s domestically. This fact made the Hong Kong races all the more appealing to the Japanese, giving them a whole new set of quality stallion-making races just four hours away to target. Since the 2010s, there has been a massive spike in participation, and from that period, Maurice, who won the Hong Kong Mile and Hong Kong Cup (2000m), and Lord Kanaloa, a two-time Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) winner, have both proven to be quality stallions as well.

With the winners’ success at stud, it is no surprise that owners look to Hong Kong with their horses as an excellent place to gain their stallion resume. Just one win, like with Hong Kong Vase winner Satono Crown, could see you being a rising star in the Freshman Sire rankings just a few years later. Glory Vase and Gendarme are both seven years old, so their careers are nearing an end. If Glory Vase could capture a three-peat of the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase on Sunday (11 December), his stellar stallion resume would reach historical status. Salios has been a hard-trying horse all his career and a G1 winner as a juvenile, but a win in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile could make him pop when breeders consider him for their mares. Gendarme, both an early and a late bloomer, has a fantastic pedigree and finally earned his G1 winner status but, like Lord Kanaloa, that Hong Kong Sprint win would put him over the edge. A stallion who was able to run and win in Hong Kong has the talent to be a future star of the Japanese breeding industry more so than any other country to date.

The LONGINES HKIR are perfectly placed in the Japanese racing calendar. The Hong Kong Sprint, Cup, and Mile are ideally timed for runners coming out of major Japanese races of the same distance in the previous two months. While the Hong Kong Vase gives Japanese stayers more options beyond the two most competitive races on the Japanese fall calendar, the Japan Cup and the Arima Kinen. The Hong Kong International Races and the JRA calendar are a match made in heaven and, as the record-breaking 14 runners load into the gate this Sunday, they’ll be looking to run right off with all those millions of Hong Kong dollars in tow.

@jonathanstettin the win train keeps rolling down the tracks!

Michael @Bet2wps View testimonials