01/27/2017 2:46PM

Possible Dubai preps kick off New Year

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Two seven-figure group stakes highlight the 11-race program in honor of the Chinese New Year at Sha Tin Racecourse on Monday, races that could produce runners for the Dubai World Cup program on the other side of Asia in March.

The $1,289,124 Stewards’ Cup, a Group 1 at a mile on turf, is the richest race on Monday’s program, worth slightly more than the $1,031,299 Centenary Sprint Cup, a Group 2 at six furlongs on turf. The races have brought together many of the top turf milers and sprinters in Hong Kong.

Stewards’ Cup

Beauty Only has the best recent form of the 12 runners in the Stewards’ Cup, having won his last two starts, including the Group 1 Hong Kong Mile against an international field at Sha Tin on Dec. 11. Trained by Tony Cruz, Beauty Only is a threat from off the pace under jockey Zac Purton.

Helene Paragon, second in the Hong Kong Mile, is another closer with excellent credentials. Trainer John Moore has mentioned Monday’s race as a prep for the $6 million Dubai Turf, where he could meet Tepin, at 1 1/8 miles in the United Arab Emirates on March 25.

“I thought he was unlucky he didn’t make his run at the same time as Beauty Only in the Hong Kong Mile,” Moore told Hong Kong publicity this week. “He was only beaten half a length, so he was a little unlucky not to win.”

Moore trains five runners in the Stewards’ Cup, including the Group 1 winners Able Friend and Designs On Rome. Able Friend won four Group 1 races in the 2014-15 Hong Kong season but is winless in his last four starts. Designs On Rome has won three Group 1 races in Hong Kong in his career and the Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy at a mile last October.

Cruz trains four runners in the Stewards’ Cup, including Beauty Only and Blazing Speed, who was fifth in the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup behind Maurice on Dec. 11.

Centenary Sprint Cup

There has not been a dominant sprinter in Hong Kong in recent months, with Aerovelocity, Amazing Kids, Blizzard, Lucky Bubbles, and Not Listenin’tome all winning group stakes since the start of the season in October.

Aerovelocity is by far the most prominent of those, having won the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint at six furlongs on turf at Sha Tin last month, beating Lucky Bubbles, Peniaphobia, and Amazing Kids in the premier sprint of the Hong Kong season.

Lucky Bubbles was beaten a short head by Aerovelocity as the favorite in the Hong Kong Sprint. Lucky Bubbles won the Group 2 Premier Bowl at six furlongs on turf in October and was second to Not Listenin’tome in the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint on Nov. 20.