Blogs & Opinion

Richard Hannon may be denied one final top-grade winner in Hong Kong, says Alex Hammond

Alex Hammond - Alex Hammond Posted 5th December 2013 view comments

This weekend it feels like the flat season is truly drawing to its conclusion with the international races in Hong Kong taking place at Sha Tin on Sunday morning.

It's certainly the end of an era as Richard Hannon bids to bow out from his enduringly successful training career with a final Group 1 winner with Sky Lantern in the Mile.

The champion trainer hands over the licence to son Richard Junior on the 1st January, but before that significant day his assistant is overseeing the 1000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes and Sun Chariot Stakes winner for her final start of the year.

Sky Lantern: faces still competition from Moonlight Cloud in Hong Kong

Sky Lantern: faces still competition from Moonlight Cloud in Hong Kong

She has been on the go for some time and that can sometimes be the undoing of these horses at the end of the year and it is a slight concern that she was a bit quiet when first arriving in Hong Kong. All is apparently well now, but as much as I would love to see another top grade winner for Hannon I fear that the French filly Moonlight Cloud may be too tough a nut to crack.

The draw is all important at this track and Moonlight Cloud will come out of Gate six with Sky Lantern in eight.

The Vase

Europe have a very strong hand in the Vase (1m 4f) with The Fugue the hot favourite for John Gosden. She is well drawn in three and comes here having just been touched off in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Providing she isn't feeling the effects of her season she should take all the beating. Her season didn't start until Royal Ascot in June so she hasn't been on the go for as long as some and she could even be counted a touch unlucky in America and she deserves another big prize before her break. The good news is she is staying in training next season so we have much to look forward to.

There are some real favourites in this race including Dandino, Mount Athos, Simenon and one of my favourite horses Red Cadeaux. The latter is stuck out quite wide in 11, but you wouldn't be surprised to see this well-travelled warrior run another great race for Ed Dunlop - remember he won this race last year. He was second in the Melbourne Cup last time out, but has the burden of having to give weight away to some of the runners, including The Fugue. I think the Gosden filly will be very hard to beat.

The Cup

The Cup (1m 2f) is another race with some familiar names in the line-up although local runner Military Attack is the market-leader for trainer John Moore. He began his career in the UK with John Hills when known as 'Rave' and won handicaps here, but has flourished since going to Hong Kong winning three Group 1 races including the International Cup in Singapore and keeps on improving.

Cirrus des Aigles is one of his main rivals on Sunday and it's been good to see him much more like his old self in the latter stage of the season. He was just beaten by Farhh in the Champion Stakes on his last start but he just doesn't seem as good as he once was (he'll probably hack up in this now I've said that!).

The horse I think could run well at a huge price is Side Glance. I'm hoping for a touch of the Red Cadeaux's here as I tipped that horse each way for the Melbourne Cup at 60/1. Side Glance has been running well on his travels earning some decent prize money in the process. He was given a good ride by Jamie Spencer to win at Flemington last time out and I hope he can do the same again here.

The John Durkan Memorial

Also on Sunday there is some quality racing in Ireland with the John Durkan Memorial the feature at Punchestown.

It will be fascinating to see how Flemenstar fares on his second outing for trainer Tony Martin. Although he won the Fortria Chase at Navan on his first start away from Peter Casey, he didn't look impressive and you'd hope there is the expected improvement from his seasonal reappearance. He jumping wasn't fluent and he 'ballooned' a few of his fences, but I'm sure he will have jumped plenty of fences since that day. He likes proper winter ground and he may not get that again here, but he's a dangerous horse to take on and he's a short priced favourite.

I'm looking forward to seeing Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs back out again for Willie Mullins. He's a horse who has had problems with his jumping in the past, but those problems don't seem to be such an issue nowadays. He will appreciate the better ground he gets on Sunday and he goes well at this track so it looks a good starting point for him. His main aim is another crack at the Cheltenham Gold Cup so I don't expect to see him fully wound up here and the trip is a bit short for him too. It should go the way of Flemenstar.

The Tingle Creek

Closer to home the Tingle Creek is Sandown's feature, but sadly it will be without its star as Sprinter Sacre is staying at home. Nicky Henderson's Champion Chaser is slightly below par and Henderson has taken the decision to leave him in his box. Although it is disappointing not to see him, it certainly makes this two-mile Grade 1 much more competitive.

Gary Moore's Sire de Grugy is the market leader but I was disappointed to see him beaten by Kid Cassidy in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham on his reappearance. However, a return to Sandown won't do him any harm and he remains a bright prospect this season.

Nicky Henderson may not have Sprinter Sacre in the race, but he still has a decent chance of winning the race with Captain Conan. He won the Henry VIII Novices' Chase on this card 12 months ago and he has the beating of Sire de Grugy in an Arkle Trial at Cheltenham last November, the track would have suited the winner better on that occasion though. He faces a tougher season this time round, but this is an easier option with his stablemate out of the picture.

Somersby seems to have been around for ever, but he's still only nine years old. He is trained by Mick Channon with assistance from former trainer Hen Knight and the duo are proving to be a formidable team. Somersby made a great start to his season by winning the Haldon Gold Cup (Cue Card in third) and he is worthy of a great deal of respect. He is also a former winner of the Henry VIII Novices' Chase so the track and trip suit well. In what is now an open race he'll do for me.

The Becher Chase

Away from Sandown there is a competitive field for the Becher Chase over the National fences at Aintree. A big field of 24 have been declared for the 3m 2f handicap headed by the Willie Mullins-trained On His Own. If you back him you are taking a chance on him getting round, something he has failed to do in both his Grand National outings.

Paul Nicholls saddles Join Together who will be fitted with blinkers for the first time, replacing the cheekpieces he has worn on his last two starts. He was second to Hello Bud in this last year and is running off a 2lbs lower mark now.

I like Across the Bay, not just because he is trained by Donald McCain. He ran well for a long way in the National, just running out of steam and he has proven his ability to jump round here.

David Bridgewater trains Wyck Hill for JP McManus. This horse missed his chance to run in the National after sustaining an injury at Kempton last February. He is a tough performer but I don't think the ground will be soft enough for him here.

Nicky Henderson's Roberto Goldback has only had one try over these fences and managed to get as far as the last in the National before unseating his rider when tailed off. I've always thought he was a National horse and will be interested to see how he runs. He ran with credit at Ascot last month. He certainly has a great chance of running into a place and he's my each way selection with Across the Bay his main danger.




Somersby in the Tingle Creek @ 5/2 with Sky Bet


Roberto Goldback in the Becher Chase @ 16/1 with Sky Bet (each way)


Hong Kong

Moonlight Cloud in the Hong Kong Mile @ 5/4 with Sky Bet

The Fugue in the Hong Kong Vase @ 6/4 with Sky Bet

Side Glance in the Hong Kong Cup @ 25/1 with Sky Bet (each way)


Flemenstar in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown @ 6/4 with Sky Bet

back to top

Other Horse Racing Experts:

Latest Posts in Horse Racing: