Sunday’s $3 million Hong Kong Sprint (G1) shapes up as perhaps the most evenly-matched of the four Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) at Sha Tin. Japan’s Danon Smash thus has his work cut out to emulate his sire, Lord Kanaloa, and post back-to-back wins in this race.
Hong Kong Sprint (G1) – Race 5 (1:40 a.m. ET)
Trained like Lord Kanaloa by Takayuki Yasuda, Danon Smash entered the 2020 Sprint on the top of his game, off a win in last fall’s Centaur (G2) and a second to Gran Alegria in the Sprinters (G1). The six-year-old arrives with a different pattern this time.
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Although Danon Smash validated his Hong Kong victory by taking the Mar. 27 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (G1) over Resistencia, he’s finished sixth in both ensuing starts. In his return visit to this track and about six-furlong trip in the Apr. 25 Chairman’s Sprint Prize (G1), Danon Smash was beaten four lengths by Wellington. He didn’t reappear until the Oct. 3 Sprinters, when caught for speed on the turn and chugging one-paced behind Pixie Knight.
Pixie Knight, whose sire Maurice was twice an HKIR star, logically started out going longer. But the sophomore excelled when shortening up. After close seconds versus elders in the CBC Sho (G3) and Centaur, Pixie Knight put it all together with a powerful stalk-and-pounce display in the Sprinters. In so doing, he turned the tables on Centaur heroine Resistencia, who covered more ground from post 12.
Resistencia is another who found her niche on the cutback, but she had reached a much higher level over the metric mile. After carrying her speed that far in the 2019 Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1), the distance proved a shade beyond her during her classic campaign. Yet Resistencia still performed well, as the runner-up in the 2020 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas) (G1) and NHK Mile Cup (G1). Since reinventing herself as a sprinter, the daughter of Daiwa Major was arguably unlucky to miss by a neck in the Takamatsunomiya Kinen, where the yielding going blunted her just enough.
Hong Kong’s historically robust sprint division has tended to own this race. If the locals lack a clear standout, there’s no shortage of aspirants to the throne.
Current divisional champion Hot King Prawn has come up short here, however, for the past three years. Unplaced as the favorite in 2018 and 2020, the John Size trainee almost prevailed in the 2019 running. Interestingly, Hot King Prawn is following the same trajectory as in 2019 – just a single prep in the Nov. 21 Jockey Club Sprint (G2). On the other hand, he ran better (in second) two years ago than his eighth this time, although the gray figures to need the race more at this stage of his life. At the opposite end of the career spectrum is Size’s other runner, Courier Wonder, rampantly progressive in his rookie season and likely to find more following his fifth in the Jockey Club Sprint.
Aforementioned Chairman’s Sprint Prize winner Wellington shouldn’t be judged by his comeback seventh in the same race. The up-and-comer had a right hind foot problem that interrupted his training, and he should benefit from his Jockey Club Sprint tightener. The caveat is that trainer Richard Gibson had intended to give Wellington two preps for the Sprint.
The improving Lucky Patch won both of those tune-ups, rallying to take the photo in the Oct. 17 Premier Bowl H. (G2) and prevailing in the Jockey Club Sprint. But the eye-catcher in the latter was Naboo Attack, who sped from last into second by a diminishing three-quarters of a length. Other contenders emerging from that course-and-distance prep are third Sky Field and fourth Computer Patch, who’d placed (in the reverse order) in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize; sixth Stronger; and the trailer Amazing Star, well beaten ever since his 178-1 shocker in the Apr. 5 Sprint Cup (G2).