By Andrew Hawkins
The Hong Kong International Sale, to be held next Friday night (17 March) in the Sha Tin parade ring, is a one-of-a-kind sale. It brings together unraced stock, purchased from some of the grandest yearling auctions in the world, who are then offered exclusively for sale to Hong Kong’s ownership brigade.
With 13 lots sourced from the northern hemisphere and 18 lots from the southern hemisphere, the 2017 Hong Kong International Sale is a unique gathering.
This year’s HKIS features 13 horses bought from Australian yearling sales – the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale and the Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale – and five horses purchased at the New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale at Karaka, near Auckland. All were bought in 2015, making them three-year-olds now.
All 18 horses were pre-trained in New Zealand by Bruce Harvey at his Cambridge property, Ascot Farm, before arriving in Hong Kong last month.
“They are a very even line-up,” said Mark Richards, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Manager, International Sale, who purchased each of the horses as yearlings in 2015. “They are a good group of horses across the board, they have plenty of stature, and there is a lot for trainers to work with once they enter the Hong Kong training system.”
Close Hong Kong ties to leading lots
An immediate eye-catcher is Lot 12, a son of Starcraft, who also produced last year’s sale-topper in David Hall-trained Jing Jing Win. Starcraft has proven his mettle with 10 Hong Kong winners among his number, including this season’s G3 Chinese Club Challenge Cup Handicap (1400m) scorer Blizzard, Class 1 victor Eroico and Hong Kong Classic Mile fourth Winner’s Way.
The bay’s dam, Biancalaura, is a half-sister to 2001 Australian Broodmare of the Year Twiglet, herself the dam of two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year Fairy King Prawn and G1-winning stallion Easy Rocking.
On the other end of the spectrum is Lot 28, by third-season sire Master Of Design. The G1 T J Smith Stakes hero has only had one horse to race in Hong Kong, Class 3 winner Star Of Patch, but he is represented at this year’s HKIS by the bay gelding, out of the Stravinsky mare Sparkling Symphony. She is a half-sister to middle-distance galloper Packing Winner, who took the HKG1 Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) among seven Sha Tin wins.
“It’s an interesting cross because it puts speed into a family that is quite stout,” Richards said. “Packing Winner was well-proven here and the addition of speed should make him one to watch.”
Legacies live on for late stallions
The late O’Reilly has long been regarded as a typical “Hong Kong sire” down under for his penchant for producing horses capable of performing in the city. He is the sire of 76 Hong Kong winners with total earnings of over HK$237 million, including HKG1 Stewards’ Cup winner Fellowship, HKG2 Hong Kong Derby Trial victor Unique Jewellery and HKG3 Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse scorer Top Act.
His last yearlings went through the sales ring in New Zealand earlier this year, with limited opportunities remaining to buy into a son of the Waikato Stud flagbearer. On offer at this year’s HKIS are two O’Reilly yearlings from either side of the Tasman Sea.
Lot 14, an Inglis Melbourne Premier graduate, is out of stakes-placed Snippets mare Talista Belle, a daughter of G1-placed mare Talaga. Also worth noting is Lot 25, bought at Karaka. The bay, out of the Thorn Park mare Kiwi Park, includes in his family two horses that were seven-time winners in Hong Kong in Brilliant Shine and Speedygonzalez.
Other late stallions making an impact at this year’s HKIS are Northern Meteor and Street Cry.
Lot 3 comes from Northern Meteor’s final crop, the G1-winning sprinter producing a number of top-line gallopers across his four seasons at stud. The bay gelding is out of the Danehill Dancer mare Fairytale Dancer, from the family of New Zealand G1 winner Ekstreme.
Street Cry has been a growing force all over the globe with progeny like Zenyatta, Street Sense and Shocking. He has also been making a name recently through the deeds of his wonder daughter Winx, as well as through his stallion son Street Boss, the sire of Hong Kong Classic Mile and Hong Kong Classic Cup winner Rapper Dragon.
He is represented by Lot 21, a bay gelding out of G1-placed mare Extension Of Time. She herself is out of a G1-placed mare, Nina Haraka, with the family including G1 Lightning Stakes winner Snitzerland.
New kids on the block among stars
Fresh from landing a maiden G1 success as a sire, Duporth is represented at this year’s HKIS by Lot 10. Last Saturday (4 March) saw Duporth’s Hey Doc win the G1 Australian Guineas at Flemington, the G1-winning stallion’s first elite score in the breeding barn, although he has had success in Hong Kong with HKG3 Hong Kong Macau Trophy winner Dashing Fellow and this season’s Class 1 Panasonic Cup victor Racing Supernova.
Lot 10 is out of Exceed And Excel’s stakes-winning mare Baby Corn, making the three-year-old a full-brother to Cornrow, who was placed in both the G1 Blue Diamond Stakes and the G1 ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes as a two-year-old. The bay or brown gelding appears made from similar cloth and looks a ready-made racehorse on type.
Another with strong recent success is Smart Missile, who is leading Australia’s second-season sire table by number of winners. He is represented by Lot 23, a Magic Millions Gold Coast graduate out of the unraced Galileo mare Eyelean, and Richards believes he could make a potential BMW Hong Kong Derby contender in 2018.
“This guy will turn every head,” Richards said. “He is all quality, he is a balanced horse and I believe that he will be a Derby type, especially with the Galileo influence on the dam’s side.”
South African influences come to fore
South African bloodstock has become more prominent in recent times as their horses have travelled abroad in larger numbers. This influence has stretched to this year’s Hong Kong International Sale, with two lots out of champion mares.
Lot 16 is by Hussonet, the sire of Hong Kong G1 winners Glorious Days and Contentment, and is out of G2 winner Almah, the Champion Older Female Stayer in South Africa in 2002/03, while Lot 19 is by Exceed And Excel out of G1 South African Fillies Guineas winner Mythical Play, a mare that has already produced five-time Hong Kong winner Natural Nine.
“The son of Mythical Play has really caught the eye since he’s come to Hong Kong,” Richards said. “He’s a quality individual and he has a lovely action, he’s one to watch at the breeze-ups on Saturday (11 March).”
Lot 1 is a Savabeel gelding out of Now The World. The Flying Spur mare has already produced stakes-paced Next The Universe and Later Gator, and Richards thinks this bay will have his admirers: “He’s a nice, solid, well-balanced individual and the sire does well in Hong Kong. I’m sure there will be plenty of interest in him.”
Lot 5 is by Magic Albert out of Unbridled’s Song mare Judicial Queen, making him a full-brother to Class 1-placed G-One Winning. Also from the dam is South African G3 winner Queen’s Command.
Lot 7 is a typical More Than Ready, according to Richards. “Look at the colour, the stature, he is all More Than Ready,” Richards said of the son of G3 winner Zingaling. “He appears a ready-made racehorse and his full-sister was a four-time winner in Sydney.”
Lot 9 is by Darci Brahma out of the unraced Pins mare Luscious Legs. It is a prominent New Zealand family that has produced G1 Diamond Stakes winners Dal Cielo and Alamosa and G1 Australasian Oaks winner Lights Of Heaven.
Lot 17 is by Fastnet Rock out of stakes winner Allez France. The bay gelding is a half to Montelimar, the dam of four-time Happy Valley winner Happy Surveys.
Lot 26 is a Choisir gelding out of the Red Ransom mare Rich Ransom. Richards draws comparisons to 2015 BMW Hong Kong Derby winner Luger: “He’s a lighter Choisir, he’s not your heavier Choisir type. In that sense, he’s similar to Luger and could be a type to progress in a similar way.”
Lot 29 is by Artie Schiller out of the Thunder Gulch mare Vintage Rock, who has already produced a stakes winner in Ayers Rock. “He was a mature-looking yearling and he has continued to develop, he looks ready-made,” said Richards.
Lot 31 is by Bel Esprit out of Tiger Storm, and Richards says that in size, he is a typical son of the sire: “Remember his best progeny was Black Caviar, and she was a giant of a mare. He tips the scales at 1,234 pounds already and you wouldn’t want to be caught underneath him. He’s a very nice horse.”
The 2017 Hong Kong International Sale will take place at Sha Tin on Friday, 17 March, beginning at 7:45pm.