12/05/2013 5:27PM

Hong Kong: Stud-studded field in Mile

Tom Keyser
The Fugue (right) just gets nipped by Magician in the Breeders' Cup Turf. She returns to the races as the favorite in the 1 1/2-mile Hong Kong Vase.

A top-notch international contingent – perhaps the best ever – has shipped to Hong Kong for the four Group 1 races on Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse, but the big Hong Kong races have so far proven elusive targets for international shippers.

Except for the Hong Kong Vase, which always has been won by shippers, locally based standouts have strongly outperformed the international ship-ins in the three other major stakes on Sunday’s excellent card. And if good European runners have struggled to make a dent in the Hong Kong Cup and the Hong Kong Mile, the chances of the two Americans who have traveled to Hong Kong this year – Little Mike for the Cup, King Kreesa for the Mile – are slim at best.

The $2.6 million Mile, which includes New York-bred King Kreesa, could be the best edition of a race that dates to 1991. The field includes two of the very best milers in Europe this year, Sky Lantern and Moonlight Cloud, as well as the very capable Gordon Lord Byron.

Five-year-old Moonlight Cloud – who could be making the last start of her career – and 3-year-old Sky Lantern never have met. Moonlight Cloud, trained by Freddie Head, has won all four of her races this year, three at the Group 1 level, and she was particularly dominant in her most recent outing, winning the Oct. 6 Prix de la Foret by three lengths over Gordon Lord Byron with a breathtaking last-to-first run in the homestretch. But Moonlight Cloud is unlikely to get the very soft, French-style turf at Sha Tin that she had in the Foret, and her lone previous overseas excursion ended poorly, with an eighth-place finish in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Sky Lantern also was at the Breeders’ Cup that year, but her below-par eighth-place finish in the Juvenile Fillies Turf owed everything to poor racing luck, and Sky Lantern has come back to win three Group 1’s this season – the English 1000 Guineas, the Coronation Stakes, and the Sun Chariot. The 3-year-old Richard Hannon-trained filly, however, was cut in price by English bookmakers earlier this week after reports that her long journey might have registered a negative impact.

Gold Fun, perfect in three Hong Kong starts this season, including the local prep for the Mile, appears to be the best of the home team. King Kreesa should be prominently placed in the early going under Mike Smith, but is unlikely to have much final impact.

Cup: Cirrus des Aigles tops 12

The 7-year-old France-based gelding Cirrus des Aigles made his first trip to Hong Kong in 2009, and he will still be seeking a major placing in his fourth trip to the Far East when he runs in the $2.8 million Cup over about one and one-quarter miles.

Cirrus des Aigles’s 2013 campaign got off to a very rocky start, but he finally looked like at least a semblance of his former self in his two most recent starts, a win in the Group 2 Prix Dollar and a second in the Group 1 Champion Stakes.

Cirrus des Aigles is one of 12 entrants in the Cup, which includes Little Mike, most recently seventh when attempting a second straight victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Little Mike’s previous overseas trip produced two sub-par performances at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai.

Grandeur had to be scratched from the BC Turf after suffering from a shipping sickness, and he will try again in the Cup. Grandeur is one of two entrants in the race to have contested the Arlington Million this year, and the other, Side Glance, was a subtly troubled third in that race.
The top local hope may be Endowing, a winner of two straight Hong Kong group stakes.

Vase: The Fugue returns

The Fugue took a tough defeat at the hands of Magician in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, and looms the horse to beat in the $1.9 million Vase over about one and one-half miles.

Set to make her first start outside Europe or North America, The Fugue enters in strong form, with two excellent wins preceding her runner-up performance in the BC Turf. Among her 13 rivals in the race is Red Cadeaux, who scored a major upset when he won the 2012 Vase. Red Cadeaux has failed to find the winner’s circle since that victory, but he comes off an strong second of 24 in the Melbourne Cup.

◗ Rounding out the Group 1 action is the $1.9 million Sprint, which includes the winner of the 2012 Sprint, Lord Kanaloa, and the 2011 Sprint, Lucky Nine.

◗ Post time for the first Grade 1 race on the card, the Vase, is 3 a.m. Eastern.