Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior and Dubai Honour headline stellar FWD Champions Day contenders
FWD Champions Day (Sunday, 30 April) at Sha Tin brought together the very best of Hong Kong’s elite gallopers and top-line horses from Great Britain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand across three Group 1 races worth HK$65 million.
The brilliant Golden Sixty attempted to become the first three-time winner of the HK$20 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m), Romantic Warrior was bidding to become the second horse in two decades to land back-to-back wins in the HK$25 million G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m) when he clashed with Dubai Honour, while Lucky Sweynesse and Wellington renewed their rivalry in the HK$20 million G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m).
A total of 28 talented horses converged at Sha Tin, featuring 11 individual Group 1 winners. This year’s tally of expected international horses in Hong Kong is nine – the highest since FWD Champions Day was consolidated to a single race day in 2018.
Mr Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing at The Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: “It is very exciting to see such a strong contingent of world-class horses heading to Hong Kong for FWD Champions Day. The showcase is firmly established as one of world racing’s principal events and this year we will welcome an extraordinary line-up from Great Britain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Hong Kong’s hometown hero Golden Sixty is looking to create history, while Dubai Honour and the might of Japan will test some incredible form lines in Hong Kong against a collection of the home team’s best gallopers.”
FWD QEII Cup
Romantic Warrior had firmly established himself as a powerhouse of world-racing’s middle-distance ranks and he faced an internationally renowned field over the famed 2000m course at Sha Tin in the HK$25 million G1 FWD QEII Cup (2000m). A five-year-old bought out of the 2021 Hong Kong International Sale, Romantic Warrior blitzed a classy field in the 2022 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) and his sights were firmly set on becoming a consecutive winner of this month’s race – the first since Eishin Preston (2002 & 2003). Against him, Dubai Honour – a smashing winner of the G1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick on Saturday, 8 April heads the opposition.
Danon The Kid returned for another shot at Romantic Warrior after finishing second in the 2022 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup, while Hishi Iguazu – second in the 2021 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup – also returned in a bid for Hong Kong glory. Geraldina and Prognosis filled the Japanese quartet in the FWD QEII Cup.
Hong Kong’s team was bolstered by the inclusion of Russian Emperor – Hong Kong Champion Stayer (2021/22) – as well as dual Group 3 winners Tourbillon Diamond and Money Catcher.
FWD Champions Mile
Golden Sixty had torn down the record books in Hong Kong and the city’s champion – with staggering career earnings of HK$136.53 million –looked to become the first three-time winner of the HK$20 million G1 FWD Champions Mile (1600m) after victories in 2021 and 2022 for Francis Lui.
The superb son of Medaglia d’Oro renewed competition with California Spangle – winner of the 2022 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), while Waikuku – who famously halted Golden Sixty’s unbeaten streak at 16 also features, as does 2023 BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) hero Voyage Bubble – a rising star on the local circuit who also captured the Hong Kong Classic Mile (1600m) two starts prior.
The overseas entries saw My Oberon – runner-up last start in the G1 Doncaster Mile (1600m) – make the trek up to Hong Kong for Annabel Neasham. Aegon joined him from New Zealand as a Group 1 winner in his home country. Beauty Joy – a two-time Group 3 winner – lined up for Hong Kong, while Healthy Happy and Glorious Dragon round out the home team’s engagement.
Chairman’s Sprint Prize
Hong Kong’s highest-rated sprinter Lucky Sweynesse had continued to lift his game this season with a pair of Group 1 wins and Manfred Man’s speedster chased a third when he lined up in the HK$20 million G1 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m). An 11-time winner from 15 started in Hong Kong, Lucky Sweynesse had six wins this season – headlined by G1 Centenary Sprint Cup (1200m) and G1 Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m) triumphs as well as a pair of Group 2 wins and sole victory at Group 3 level.
If successful on FWD Champions Day, Lucky Sweynesse collected a HK$5 million bonus for winning Hong Kong’s Speed Series. The Speed Series comprised the Centenary Sprint Cup, Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup and Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Crowned Hong Kong Champion Sprinter (2021/22) last season, Wellington would be chanced with becoming the second three-time winner of the Chairman’s Sprint Prize after Quicken Away’s trio of wins in 1989, 1990 and 1991. Richard Gibson’s charge won the race in 2021 and 2022; he had 12 career wins including the 2022 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
Chautauqua (2016) was the only internationally trained horse to have won the Chairman’s Sprint Prize and this year Aguri for Japan and Flaming Rib for Great Britain attempted to match the feat. Lightly raced, Aguri’s biggest scalp came in the 2023 G3 Hankyu Hai (1400m) at Hanshin, while Flaming Rib – a seven-time winner from 18 starts – boasted a top-level placing in the 2022 G1 Commonwealth Cup (1200m) at Royal Ascot for Hugo Palmer.
Hong Kong’s invariably strong sprinting ranks also saw Group 1 placegetters Sight Success and Courier Wonder featured for 11-time Hong Kong Champion Trainer John Size, as well as Duke Wai, Cordyceps Six, Master Eight and Nervous Witness.