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Loves Only You is among a stellar line-up of 49 horses selected for the HK$100 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) at Sha Tin on Sunday, 12 December.

Fresh off Breeders’ Cup success in the United States of America, Yoshito Yahagi’s mare is just one of 22 Group 1 winners set to compete. Returning to Hong Kong in a bid for a second G1 success in the city, the daughter of Deep Impact is looking to cap a superb year and she is just one of the exciting contingent of overseas raiders aiming at this year’s “Turf World Championships”.

Featuring prominently once more, Aidan O’Brien will return to Hong Kong in strength with 2020 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) winner Mogul while stablemates Broome, Japan, Bolshoi Ballet and Mother Earth also feature.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has created uncertainty around many international racing events, the strength of the international presence in this year’s line-up confirms that the Sha Tin showpiece retains its pre-eminent position at the top of the agenda for international horsemen.

The LONGINES HKIR is the sport’s global year-end spectacular and features the HK$30 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), the HK$26 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), the HK$24 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) and the HK$20 million G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m). The Cup, Mile and Sprint are the world’s richest G1 races on turf over their respective distances.

Mr Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said: “The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) is firmly established as one of the world’s principal racing events and this year we will welcome an extraordinary line-up from Japan, Great Britain, Ireland and France which includes 16 individual Group 1 winners. To have runners of this calibre in any year would be notable but once again it is truly remarkable given the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are delighted that the quality of the selected runners for this year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races is in keeping with our long-held commitment to deliver sporting excellence and Loves Only You’s return to Hong Kong after her historical Breeders’ Cup victory is incredibly exciting, as is the arrival of a quintet from Aidan O’Brien’s all-powerful Ballydoyle operation.

“Our hometown hero Golden Sixty is looking to enhance his astonishing unbeaten streak to 16 and also set a new all-time winning record of 19 in Hong Kong should he successfully defend his Hong Kong Mile title while star sprinter Wellington’s development adds further intrigue and everything surely points to a thrilling afternoon of sport on Sunday, 12 December.”

Loves Only You spearheads a strong cohort from Japan, which includes first and second out of the G1 Sprinters Stakes (1200m) at Nakayama Racecourse last month, Pixie Knight and Resistencia, respectively, with both plotting raids on the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint. Danon Smash returns to defend his crown in the dash, while Glory Vase will attempt to recapture his LONGINES Hong Kong Vase title from Mogul - last year’s victor - who also returns from Ireland to represent Aidan O’Brien.

Joining Loves Only You in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup is Lei Papale, winner of the G1 Osaka Hai (2000m) earlier this year who is looking to remain unbeaten over 10-furlongs. Bolshoi Ballet - O’Brien’s American G1 winner - plots a course for the Hong Kong Cup, as does Mac Swiney for Jim Bolger and Dubai Honour for William Haggas. Both Mac Swiney - a two-time G1 winner - and Dubai Honour placed behind Sealiway in the British Champion Stakes with the latter getting within a length.

O’Brien will be double-handed in the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase as the incredibly consistent Broome - who runs in Sunday’s (28 November) G1 Japan Cup (2400m) - journeys to Hong Kong for the first time following his cracking second to Yibir in the G1 LONGINES Breeders’ Cup Turf (2400m) earlier this month at Del Mar Racecourse.

The William Muir-trained Pyledriver – winner of the 2021 G1 Coronation Cup (2420m) at Epsom Downs Racecourse – is in the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase. While, H H Aga Khan’s Ebaiyra – trained by the iconic Alain de Royer-Dupre – is also targeting a Hong Kong Vase raid.

Eyeing a 16th consecutive win and second successive LONGINES Hong Kong Mile crown, Hong Kong’s Golden Sixty will face no shortage of stiff opposition including Mother Earth for the Irish mastermind, O’Brien. Her brilliant three-year-old season boasts two G1 titles, winning the 1000 Guineas (1609m) and Prix Rothschild (1600m), while she has also placed in seven other G1 contests in Great Britain, Ireland, France and the United States.

Indy Champ and Vin de Garde join the Japanese brigade bidding to overthrow Golden Sixty, as does Danon Kingly, winner of the G1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) last June. Trainer Noriyuki Hori is no stranger to success in Hong Kong after the heroics of the great Maurice and he’ll be represented by Hishi Iguazu in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup as well as the G1-winning Salios, who also boasts consecutive runner-up efforts to Japan’s Triple Crown-winning Contrail. Salios will contest the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile.

Joining Golden Sixty - Hong Kong’s reigning Horse of the Year - in the home team’s defence is Hong Kong’s Champion Stayer Panfield, who will be running in the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup.

Hong Kong’s emerging talent has always been ever-present and the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint will have no shortage of juvenile stars. Lucky Patch steps out for Hong Kong following consecutive G2 scores, while Courier Wonder, Naboo Attack and Sky Field bolster the home team’s defences with established G1 stars, Hot King Prawn and Wellington spearheading the charge.

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