Californian speedster Stormy Liberal pulled off a major upset when he left Marsha and Lady Aurelia, both group one winners in Britain, in his wake in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1).
But he faces just as tough a task if he is to travel across the Pacific and beat the locals in the $US2.35 million Hong Kong International Sprint (G1) over six furlongs at Sha Tin Dec. 10.
Firstly, he has run around the turn clockwise, different from any other race he’s contested. Secondly, he has barrier 11 of 13 to contend with – usually a disadvantage in Hong Kong, where it’s not wise to cover much extra ground around the turn running wide.
Then, he has a very good bunch of locals to contend with.
The likely favorite is the Australian-bred Mr Stunning (Exceed and Excel). He’s won nine of his 15 starts, including the two main Hong Kong lead-ups, the Premier Bowl (G2) and the BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (G2). He’s got a nice barrier draw of four, though he’s normally a closer.
Lucky Bubbles (Sebring) is aiming to go one better than last year, when he was narrowly beaten by Aerovelocity. He beat Mr Stunning in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (G1) earlier in the year, and has had no luck in the two lead-ups won by Mr Stunning. Barrier one will probably not help him, but he does have the services of leading jockey Hugh Bowman for the first time since the Chairman’s Sprint Prize.
Mr Stunning’s trainer John Size has another three runners: Amazing Kids, D B Pin, and Thewizardofoz, who finished second, third, and fifth, respectively, in the Jockey Club Sprint. 2015 winner Peniaphobia is also worth remembering.
Two quality female sprinters head over from Japan: Let’s Go Donki and Once in a Moon. They finished second and third, respectively, in the Sprinters Stakes (G1) this year.
French raiders Signs of Blessing and The Right Man are both group one winners; their main problem will be the turn, as they are more familiar with running on straight courses.
The international ratings compilers didn’t rate Stormy Liberal’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint victory highly, and his 114 rating is seven below that of Mr Stunning. But he proved the ratings compliers wrong at Del Mar, and he could do so again. If he can’t, Mr Stunning and Lucky Bubbles are the obvious two to beat.