April 24 (UPI) — With a lot of the world’s horse racing nonetheless out of motion due to the coronavirus, Hong Kong steps up this weekend with a trio of Group 1 races with Horse of the Yr honors on the road.

Oaklawn Park continues its stakes schedule with a pair of sprints that drew Grade I-level rivals. And Gulfstream Park provides a stakes occasion.

Occasions are so skinny in america that considered one of subsequent week’s prime races is Thursday’s $75,000 Bosselman Pump and Pantry/Gus Fonner Stakes at Fonner Park in Grand Island, Neb. And it guarantees to be an excellent race.

When will issues get higher? Properly, Churchill Downs once more has pushed again opening its backstretch and coaching facility. Santa Anita awaits phrase on its plea to reopen. There’s nonetheless no phrase on rescheduling the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

We stay hopeful. However, for now, it is:

Hong Kong

Sunday’s FWD Champions Day program is considered one of Hong Kong’s two huge days of worldwide racing, book-ending the Longines Hong Kong Worldwide Races in December. The HKIR races had been run earlier than a severely restricted crowd due to the road demonstrations.

Champions Day shall be carried out with no followers in the stands due to coronavirus prevention measures. Full marks to the Hong Kong Jockey Membership for its excessive and very efficient efforts to maintain issues going safely.

There are three Group 1 races on the cardboard — the FWD QE II Cup at 2,000 meters, the FWD Champions Mile and the Chairman’s Dash Prize at 1,200 meters.

Champions Day was to have been a showdown of kinds between the reigning and two-time Horse of the Yr Magnificence Technology and the “younger” upstart winner of this yr’s Hong Kong Derby, Golden Sixty, with the previous going in the Mile and Golden Sixty in the QE II Cup.

A win by Golden Sixty doubtless would have sewn up champions’ honors. However he’s staying in the barn, with coach Francis Lui saying this week, merely, “He will not run. He is achieved quite a bit this season and we really feel he wants a relaxation now to refresh his thoughts and let him develop. He’ll have a summer season break after which we’ll put together him for subsequent season.”

For Magnificence Technology, with the “subsequent season” a query mark, it is all about now.

After successful all eight of his races in the 2018-19 season to earn his second straight Horse of the Yr honor, the 7-year-old endured 4 straight losses this season earlier than reclaiming his mojo.

He now comes off victory in the Group 2 Chairman’s Trophy and a win Sunday would make him a minimum of a sentimental selection for an unprecedented third straight prime honor.

Two others working Sunday may very well be Horse of the Yr candidates with good showings. Exultant has emerged over the previous two seasons as Hong Kong’s premier distance runner and Waikuku completed in entrance of Magnificence Technology in all 4 of that one’s defeats — however flopped final day out.

Nonetheless, coach John Moore says his previous boy ought to get factors for his standing and recognition.

“If we are able to win the Champions Mile on Sunday, he’d must be a critical probability of being Horse of the Yr once more,” Moore mentioned of Magnificence Technology.

The veteran already has 18 wins in Hong Kong, yet one more than the legendary Silent Witness. He’s the monitor document holder at a mile and, with greater than HK$100 million in earnings, additionally tops that record.

All three races shall be fought out completely by locals. In a “regular” yr, there could be vital worldwide competitors and, in reality, a stellar record of abroad raiders was entered this yr. Journey and well being restrictions associated to the COVID-19 pandemic put paid to that however the Hong Kong-based runners are loads good to make the occasion world-class.

The FWD Champions Mile

Magnificence Technology trailed Waikuku in all 4 of his defeats this season — albeit solely by comparatively slim margins. He didn’t face that rival in his rebound victory.

However final day out, the 2 squared off in the Chairman’s Trophy at 1 mile with Magnificence Technology trying like his previous self in triumph and Waikuku tossing in a clunker, defeating solely Fats Turtle whereas reporting Four 3/Four lengths behind Magnificence Technology.

The query is: Which of these two can reproduce his greatest type in the Champions Mile? Or, alternatively, in the event that they each present up huge, can the 7-year-old have sufficient left to win once more or will the torch move to the 5-year-old rival?

The sector additionally contains Ka Ying Star, who led all however the ultimate jumps in the Chairman’s Trophy, Singapore specialist Southern Legend, who was third in that race, and the aforementioned Fats Turtle.

A facet situation in this race, and in the opposite two for that matter, is the new rivalry for the jockey premiership between Joao Moreira and Zac Purton. Moreira rides Waikuku and Magnificence Technology is Purton’s “horse of a profession,” which is saying one thing given his standing.

The QE II Cup

Seven are set for the two,000-meters characteristic with Exultant and Time Warp topping the record. Exultant, a 6-year-old Teofilo gelding, is the highest-rated of three entered by coach Tony Cruz, however like Magnificence Technology, has been unable to repeat final season’s glory, which included victories in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup and the Group 1 Customary Chartered Champions & Chater Cup.

He was third in this season’s Hong Kong Cup, behind two Japanese invaders, and exits a fast-closing second behind front-running stablemate Time Warp in the Group 1 Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup, additionally at 2,000 meters.

Furore enters winless in eight begins since touchdown final season’s BMW Hong Kong Derby however has perked up since transferring to Cruz’s care in February.

The others in the Cup look overmatched. However, then, so did Playa del Puente, who went off at odds of 290-1 in the Hong Kong Derby and fell only a nostril in need of holding off Golden Sixty for the win. He makes his first begin again from that effort.

Purton rides Exultant, ranging from the No. 5 gate. Time Warp, with Moreira up, drew simply to his inside. The race encompasses a quick run to the primary flip. Time Warp, a confirmed front-runner, ought to have a transparent dash to the lead whereas Exultant shouldn’t have any bother securing a stalking spot though a tardy begin in the Gold Cup doubtless value him the win.

The Chairman’s Dash Prize

Hong Kong’s speediest are in the 11-horse discipline with Aethero and Scorching King Prawn heading the forged. Purton has the mount on Aethero whereas Moreira pilots Scorching King Prawn.

Aethero, a 3-year-old sensation early in the season, opened eyes with a victory in the Group 2 Jockey Membership Dash in November, defeating runner-up Scorching King Prawn by 2 lengths with Beat the Clock third.

Issues acquired scrambled a month later in the Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Dash when Beat the Clock, Scorching King Prawn and Aethero reported in that order, separated by inches.

Beat the Clock has known as it a season whereas Scorching King Prawn continued on to complete second to lengthy shot Voyage Warrior in the Group 2 Dash Cup — a race in which Aethero completed final of eight, by no means in the combo. Aethero did come again to win a barrier trial April 17 with Scorching King Prawn second.

With a lot uncertainty, this race appears ripe for an additional shock. The sector additionally contains the likes of D B Pin, Stuffed with Magnificence and Mr Beautiful — all of whom ran properly in the Dash Cup — to not point out the stunning Voyage Warrior.

In the meantime, again in the States:

Oaklawn Park

Rescheduling the Kentucky Derby to September makes for an entire new dynamic. For a change, 3-year-olds have an opportunity to develop and present what they’ll do earlier than being dedicated to working 1 1/Four miles. And so races like Saturday’s $100,000 Bachelor, at 6 furlongs, tackle added that means.

See, for instance, Eight Rings, an Empire Maker colt educated by Bob Baffert. He was inconsistent as may very well be as a 2-year-old, successful brilliantly at 5 1/2 furlongs in his first begin, shedding his rider in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity, successful for enjoyable in the Grade I American Pharoah at 1 1/16 miles after which fading badly to complete sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

One may suppose that, regardless of the pedigree (Empire Maker is a son of Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled), he may be a sprinter. Now, an excellent effort may be sufficient to get him again on the Derby monitor. Not, after all, that Baffert has any scarcity of candidates as he seeks a record-tying sixth win in the Run for the Roses.

The principle risk in the Bachelor would appear to be Lengthy Weekend, a Majesticperfection colt educated by Tom Amoss who has gained each his begins this yr. The newest effort was a Four 3/4-lengths romp in the native Gazebo Stakes, additionally at 6 furlongs. Ginobli was second, simply 3/Four size again of Nadal, in the Grade II San Vicente on Feb. 9 however completed fifth because the odds-on favourite in his first begin at Oaklawn. Echo City gained properly in the slop in his final begin and may have help.

And do not overlook Sir Rick, a Paynter colt who gained the Mine That Fowl Derby in New Mexico earlier than a nasty, last-place outing in the slop in the Oaklawn Stakes on April 11.

The companion $125,000 Carousel for fillies and mares, additionally at 6 furlongs, introduced Bellafina from California to face some gifted native distaffers.

Bellafina, a 4-year-old High quality Highway filly, is a a number of Grade I winner. She simply missed in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Dash in November, developing 3/Four size in need of Covfefe, then completed second in the Grade I La Brea earlier than coming into hibernation. The principle concern is the layoff.

Properly, one other concern is the competitors. Mia Mischief, drawn outdoors in a discipline of eight, is also a Grade I winner, having taken the Humana Distaff a yr in the past at Churchill Downs. The 5-year-old Into Mischief mare is a constant money-earner, hitting the board in 16 of her 20 profession begins. She has three wins and two seconds from 5 Oaklawn Park begins, too.

The Carousel discipline additionally contains the primary three finishers from the native Spring Fever Stakes — Midnight Fantasy, Amy’s Problem and What a Fox.

Gulfstream Park

The South Florida monitor additionally presents a 3-year-old characteristic Saturday, the $75,000 Unbridled Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. Search for Dr Publish, a High quality Highway colt who exits a powerful maiden win over the course. With Todd Pletcher coaching, Dr Publish might leap into the Derby image with one other step ahead.

Additionally on the radar display screen right here is Attachment Charge. After Dennis’ Second fell out of the Derby image, this Arduous Spun colt emerged as coach Dale Romans’ prime hope for the Run for the Roses. However he must enhance on a third-place end in the Grade III Gotham to maintain shifting ahead.

South Bend has been knocking on the door, however has to stroll by means of sooner or later. The Unbridled may very well be that spot for the Algorithms colt, educated by Stanley Hough.