O’Brien Declares Sunday’s LONGINES HKIR Contingent His Best

December 7, 2023

Aidan O’Brien has three LONGINES HKIR wins. (Alex Evers/HKJC)

By Daryl Timms

Ireland’s champion trainer Aidan O’Brien readily agrees he has brought his best team ever to attack the four Group 1 races in Sunday’s (10 December) LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) at Sha Tin.

He is the only trainer this year to have runners in all four of the big races.

O’Brien’s assault kicks off with Warm Heart in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m); Aesop’s Fables in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m); Cairo in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) and four-year-old colt Luxembourg in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m).

“I think there is no doubt that it is,” O’Brien replied when asked if this was the best team he’d brought to Hong Kong.

“It’s very difficult to win races here and you don’t come with second-raters.”

Luxembourg and the filly Warm Heart are regarded as perhaps his best chances of claiming more Group 1 glory, but the other two should not be discounted in the highly competitive fields where the locals and a contingent of Japanese horses will also mount serious challenges.

Luxembourg works at Sha Tin. (HKJC Photo)
Luxembourg works at Sha Tin. (Alex Evers/HKJC)

“The plan with Luxembourg was that he would always go to Ascot and then come here but he missed Ascot and has come here,” O’Brien said.

“The filly is a nice enough filly.”

O’Brien said there was definitely little a line in Warm Heart’s form to suggest she is better at a mile and a half (2400m), than a mile and a quarter (2000m).

Warm Heart has already scored two G1 victories this year – the Yorkshire Oaks (2371m) and the Prix Vermeille (2400m).

At her most recent run, she finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (2000m) in America. She had won five of her six previous starts at 2000m and 2400m in three different countries.

O’Brien has previously won three of the past eight editions of the Hong Kong Vase with Highland Reel (2015 and 2017) and Mogul (2020).

Ryan Moore will form a familiar partnership with Aidan O’Brien. (Alex Evers/HKJC)
Ryan Moore will form a familiar partnership with Aidan O’Brien. (Alex Evers/HKJC)

Ryan Moore will ride all four of O’Brien’s horses and has worked hard to get down to Warm Heart’s allocated weight of 117 pounds after he was injured in a race fall in Japan last month.

“I was talking to him yesterday and he said his weight is very good,” O’Brien said.

Wednesday night’s (6 December) Happy Valley meeting was the first time Moore had ridden since his fall in Japan.

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