Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 22 September 2019

O'Brien sets Hong Kong target for 'Reel'

Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Getty Images
Trainer Aidan O'Brien. Photo: Getty Images

Thomas Kelly

Highland Reel, Talismanic and Blond Me are some of the leading European names selected for next month's Longines Hong Kong International races at Sha Tin.

The December 10 fixture boasts four Group One heats, with the Aidan O'Brien-trained Highland Reel picked for the Hong Kong Vase - a race he claimed two years ago and finished second in last term.

Talismanic is also in the mix for the 12-furlong event with Andre Fabre's charge arriving on the back of victory in the Breeders' Cup Turf, while Willie Mullins' Melbourne Cup third Max Dynamite and Dermot Weld's Eziyra are also in the field.

Andrew Balding's Blond Me, the Michael Stoute-trained Poet's Word and Robin Of Navan from Harry Dunlop's yard are all among the selections for the 10-furlong Hong Kong Cup, along with O'Brien's War Decree.

A strong international contingent is set to make the 14-runner line-up in the Sprint with James Fanshawe's The Tin Man the sole British challenger, with the likes of Breeders' Cup winner Stormy Liberal going for America and French raider Signs Of Blessing.

Librisa Breeze could try to back up his British Champions Sprint triumph at Ascot last month in the Hong Kong Mile, while O'Brien has multiple Group One winner Roly Poly and Lancaster Bomber in contention.

David Simcock's Lightning Spear is another British contender.

Meanwhile, trainers have expressed their concerns about being left "at a disadvantage" against overseas rivals after being told they will have to declare when horses have undergone wind surgery.

The British Horseracing Authority announced the new rule yesterday, which means that, as of January 19, race cards will carry information confirming when a horse is having its first run after a procedure.

However, the National Trainers Federation believes the BHA has failed to carry out adequate research into the subject and expressed its doubts about effectively policing the new regulation, putting British-based handlers at a disadvantage on race day.

The BHA say the measure has "the needs of the sport's betting customer as the focus" and believe the decision is "in the interests of openness and transparency".

Horses trained overseas, but racing in Britain, will also be subject to the rule.

The BHA confirmed that "there will be a framework within the rules to enable the non-compliance to be addressed" should a trainer not make the necessary declaration.

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