11/25/2009 12:00AM

Hong Kong Sprint comes up big


California Flag, the front-running winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, will bring his blazing speed show to Sha Tin for the $1.5 million Hong Kong Sprint on Dec. 13, when the Brian Koriner-trained California-bred will renew rivalry with the fast-closing Turf Sprint third, Cannonball.

The two Americans will be joined at Sha Tin by Black Mamba, who runs in the 1 1/2-mile, $1.8 million Hong Kong Vase, and Ferneley in the $2 million Hong Kong Mile. The big four-race Hong Kong International Races card, sponsored by Cathay Pacific Airlines, will be completed by the 1 1/4-mile, $2.5 million Hong Kong Cup in which Vision d'Etat from France, Eagle Mountain from South Africa, England's Presvis, and local hotshot Collection will do battle.

The six-furlong Hong Kong Sprint promises to be the world's definitive turf sprint race this year. In addition to California Flag, who is riding the crest of a four-race winning streak, and the Wesley Ward-trained Cannonball, who acquitted himself so well in international company when he was second in the six-furlong, Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, the race will feature Hong Kong's leading sprinter, Sacred Kingdom, plus three multiple Group 1 winners from Australia. They are Scenic Blast, who beat Cannonball into sixth place in Royal Ascot's five-furlong King's Stand Stakes; All Silent, the winner of the six-furlong, Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic at Flemington on Nov. 7; and Apache Cat, a seven-time Group 1 winner Down Under.

Add Ireland's Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp winner Total Gallery, and you have the makings of one of the best sprint races run anywhere in the world in recent years.

The John Sadler-trained Black Mamba is fresh from a victory in the 1 1/2-mile Dowager Stakes at Keeneland. In the Vase she will meet three-time Arc runner-up Youmzain, Breeders' Cup Turf fourth Spanish Moon, and local middle-distance champ Viva Pataca. Trained by Ben Cecil, Ferneley will face two-time defending Hong Kong Mile champ Good Ba Ba; the British-trained Pressing, a group race winner in Italy, Germany, and Turkey; and Happy Zero, the winner last Sunday of the International Mile Trial at Sha Tin.

The four races, worth a total of $8omillion, include 22 Group or Grade 1 winners, nine of whom will be running in the Sprint.

"We are delighted to have attracted so many of the world's best horses to the Turf World Championships on the 125th anniversary of the Hong Kong Jockey Club," said Bill Nader, the club's executive director of racing. The recent history of this meeting has exhibited neck-and-neck rivalries between Hong Kong-trained horses and those from the rest of the world. The International Races Meeting is the most prestigious event on the Hong Kong sporting calendar."