Hidetaka Otonashi hopes genetics plays a decisive role in the HK$24 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) at Sha Tin on Sunday (12 December) when the Japanese prodigy seeks to emulate the heroics of his sire, Maurice.
A mercurial talent, Maurice annexed the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m) in 2015 before adding the G1 Champions Mile and G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), demonstrating extraordinary talent while competing at home and abroad.
Otonashi believes Pixie Knight has the talent to overcome relative inexperience on his first sortie away from Japan to prevail against a group of tough, seasoned speedsters on foreign soil.
“I think if this horse has had no issues with travel – and Maurice had success in Hong Kong – this horse should be suited in Hong Kong,” Otonashi said of Pixie Knight, who downed two of his Japanese rivals, Resistencia (second) and Danon Smash (sixth), in the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakayama Racecourse on 3 October.
“This horse is just three-years-old, so he’s still growing and he still have still some improvement and after the Sprinters Stakes, we still have two months until we came over here (to Hong Kong) and now he’s improving.
“Every day I watch his trackwork video and he was fit and well in Japan, so if he handles this travel, I think he should do well at the races.”
Bidding to join Lord Kanaloa (2012 and 2013) and Danon Smash (2020) – another potent father-son combination – as Japanese winners of the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint, Pixie Knight will be partnered by regular rider Yuichi Fukunaga as he faces four fellow G1 winners – Hot King Prawn, Wellington, Danon Smash and Resistencia.
With three wins spread over 1200m-1600m from eight starts, Pixie Knight is far better suited to sprint trips than extended journeys, according to Fukunaga.
“I always knew that he was a sprinter but we have no choice but to race him in mile races (to compete in Japanese juvenile G1 contests),” Fukunaga said. “He has a lot of speed in the mile, so he always goes in front in the race but if he’s racing at 1200m, we can choose any position to put him in.
“I think he has a lot of potential, so I have confidence but I am just concerned that in the Sprinters Stakes, we had a light weight (121lb) but this time we are the same (126lb) as some of the other horses, so we are concerned but also still confident.”
Resistencia, who beat Pixie Knight in the G2 Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes (1200m) at Chukyo on 12 September, meets the colt four pounds better off for defeat in the Sprinters Stakes.
Fukunaga has telling respect for Christophe Soumillon’s mount Resistencia, who will start from barrier seven, while Pixie Knight leaves from gate eight.
“Resistencia has drawn barrier seven and this horse has a lot of speed, so I think we just follow behind the speed but I have still to discuss it with the trainer,” Fukunaga said.
Danon Smash, who won the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint from barrier 14 last year, is the most successful G1 competitor engaged on Sunday, having also lifted the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) at Chukyo on 28 March.
He starts from gate 10 on Sunday under Yuga Kawada, while Moore teams with Hot King Prawn from barrier two.
Sunday’s (12 December) LONGINES Hong Kong International Races kicks off with the Class 2 Maurice Handicap (1600m) at 12.25pm.
Hong Kong Jockey Club Press Release
Pixie Knight moves stylishly at Sha Tin. (Hong Kong Jockey Club Photo)