The Longines Hong Kong Cup was first run in 1988, over a mile, when won by Flying Dancer. It was known as the Hong Kong Invitation Cup, then the Hong Kong International Cup. In 1999, it was given its current name was increased in status to Group 1, and is now run over 1m 2f.
California Memory is the only horse to win two Longines Hong Kong Cups, while two Northern Hemisphere three year olds have won the race: the Jim Bolger-trained Alexander Goldrun and six-time Group 1 winner over four different countries, Snow Fairy. Other notable winners have included Jim And Tonic (1999), A Shin Hikari (2015) and Maurice (2016).
2020 Longines Hong Kong Cup
The biggest race on Sunday’s racecard at Sha Tin is the US$3.613m Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup run over 1m 2 furlongs.
All the talk prior to this race has been about one horse, Magical. The Aidan O’Brien-trained supermare is bidding to become the Ballydoyle handler’s winning-most Group 1 horse.
She currently stands level with Rock Of Gibraltar, Minding, Yeats and Highland Reel on seven Group 1 victories each. Winning the 8-horse Longines Hong Kong Cup will set her apart as O’Brien’s most prolific winner at the top-level.
Incredibly, the five-year-old mare has run 27 times and contested 20 Group 1 races around the globe in a stellar career. Sunday will be her final race, what are her chances of a fairytale ending?
Magical began her 2020 season with victories in two Group 1s, the Pretty Polly Stakes and the Tattersalls Gold Cup, before finishing runner-up to Ghaiyyath in the Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes. She gained revenge on the Longines World’s Best Racehorse, the now-retired Ghaiyyath, in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, Dublin, Ireland. She placed third in the Group 1 QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot, England, before finishing runner-up in the Grade 1 Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland.
“She’s been a great filly, a really great one,” said her trainer, Aidan O’Brien, “any time she has been beaten there has been circumstances against her which caused it. She’s been great for a long time and it’s fantastic that she’s here. The reality is they probably have her to beat, but again you always respect the horses that are in there,” he added.
Win Bright, a dual Group 1 winner at Sha Tin having won the FWD QEII Cup and 2019 Hong Kong Cup, leads a strong Japanese challenge to the Irish mare. Danon Premium was runner-up to Almond Eye in the 2019 Group 1 Tenne Sho Autumn, while Normcore won the 2019 Group 1 Victoria Mile.
Another serious challenger to Magical is the Jerome Reynier-trained Skalleti, runner-up in the Group 1 QIPCO British Champion Stakes in October. Previously, the five-year-old beat subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Scottsass in a Group 3 race at Deauville, France, and has finished out of the top three just once in 16 career starts.
Hong Kong’s challenge will be lead by the 2019 Hong Kong Classic Mile and BMW Hong Kong Derby hero, Furore. His last two races at Group 3 and Group 2 level respectively saw him defeat reigning Hong Kong Horse of the Year, Exultant, who competes in the Longines Hong Kong Vase on Sunday.
Dances With Dragon is a New Zealand Group 1-winner, now trained in Hong Kong. He has achieved four wins since moving to Caspar Fownes but will need an improvement to figure at the business end of this race. Three-time Group 1 winner Time Warp is another one of the local horses but he enjoyed the run of the race when a course and distance Group 1 winner last February and is unlikely to pose a threat to the market leaders.
Photo HKJC: Magical on right