3 minute read
Connections have readily accepted the invitation to run Singapore’s top galloper Lim’s Kosciuszko in the Longines Hong Kong International Races for the second year in a row, but he will instead be taking on the best milers in the world in the HK$32 million (S$5.5 million) Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile (1600m) at Sha Tin racecourse on 10 December this year.
The Daniel Meagher-trained Kermadec six-year-old ran unplaced in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) won by Wellington last December at his first overseas foray, but Lim's Kosciuszko has since returned to Kranji shores in terrific form; running in all seven Group races over distances from 1200m to 2000m and was second to none in six of them.
After his stirring weight-carrying last-start victory in the Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2000m) on 11 November, the invite from the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) came knocking on Meagher's door and connections cannot wait to test his mettle one more time.
"It's just a privilege to be invited again," said Meagher on Tuesday.
"We pretty much got the call – an expression of interest really - after his (Lim's Kosciuszko's) Gold Cup win. We were keen, so we got the ball rolling and it became official last Friday.
"(HKJC's Head of Racing Product) Greg Carpenter has been great throughout the whole process and thought the mile would suit him (Lim's Kosciuszko) best.
"It's (Hong Kong International Races) the pinnacle of Asian racing; nearly the world, so to get an invite and race against horses like California Spangle, Beauty Eternal – to name just two - and the internationals is surreal.
"We all learned from last year and to get another chance is just amazing."
California Spangle toppled fellow Hong Kong contender and two-time Hong Kong Mile winner (2020 and 2021) Golden Sixty to take out the big race last year and both are set to make their returns in the same race this year while Beauty Eternal is another up-and-coming nominee that has just won the Group 2 BOCHK Private Wealth Jockey Club Mile (1600m), a lead-up race to the Hong Kong Mile, on Sunday.
Though Singapore's reigning Horse of the Year battled under both the weights of expectation and the rigours of international travel last year, Meagher was confident that experience would hold them in good stead.
"We did a few things wrong last year in my opinion," he said.
"And to his (Lim's Kosciuszko) credit, he was only beaten six lengths or so after a preparation that wasn't ideal.
"I trained him for Hong Kong last year instead of keeping to his routine, but he's a horse that needs a routine.
"Last year, he won a race in November (in a Class 1 race over 1200m on 19 November) and his only run before that was three months back (14 August) in the (Group 1) Lion City Cup (1200m).
"So he wasn't rock-hard fit and we tried to change his routine to suit Hong Kong and it backfired. At that time, it felt like the right thing to do and he presented a treat on race day, but routine is in his DNA. This year will be different."
Meagher reckoned another factor pointing towards an improved performance on the world stage was the Lim's Stable-owned gelding is better this time and the mile would be ideal given his body of work this year.
"His form this year had been outstanding," continued the Australian conditioner.
"He was only beaten once (by Hongkong Great in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup over 1800m on 14 October) but he'd lost no friends that day.
"All his other wins – including the (Singapore) Gold Cup – were very good and three of his Group 1 wins (twice in the Raffles Cup and once in the Kranji Mile) had been over 1600m.
"More importantly, he was never on the quick back-up in his seven runs this year, so consistency – and that routine again - has been the key. Work, trial, race and break, then repeat.
"So he is very fit, obviously in form, very happy within himself and while we will meet very good horses in Hong Kong – I'm under no illusions there - the mile looks perfect and that the HKJC agrees.
"They (HKJC) saw he improved this year and again, it's a real privilege they saw fit to invite us."
Of the huge task ahead, Meagher believes Lim's Kosciuszko can step up to the challenge. His second overseas raid will begin next Thursday with a final barrier trial before travelling to Hong Kong on 1 December.
"We're keeping him to his routine. He had a small break after the Gold Cup, then straight back into it," explained Meagher.
"We'll trial him on 30 November and he's booked to fly out the next day. The flight is the only difference, otherwise, there will be no changes to his day-to-day routine.
"I don't know who the other runners are yet, but we have all seen the Hong Kong milers who are world-class.
"I will worry about what I can; look after and make sure he (Lim's Kosciuszko) has every opportunity to show his best."
Closer to home, among his nine nominations in the 11 races on Saturday, Meagher looked to have a few solid each-way hopes with Always Together his best winning hope in the $50,000 Class 4 race over 1000m.
"He's (Always Together) going terrific," he said of the four-year-old by Shalaa.
"(Jockey) Harry (A'Isisuhairi Kasim) will ride him and it looks like a very suitable race. He's a tough horse and should go well."