Overseas raiders stretch their legs ahead of LONGINES HKIR

Half a dozen of the early overseas arrivals for the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races ventured out for light exercise at Sha Tin this morning but it was a local hero that drew most attention as Glorious Days strode out in a 1200m barrier trial on the dirt track.

John Size’s charge was a three-quarter-length second to Ambitious Dragon in last year’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile after defeating that same rival in his prep run, the G2 Jockey Club Mile. But this year’s preparation for the Mile on Sunday 8 December has been far more low-key.

The Hussonet six-year-old has not competed since a disappointing unplaced effort in the G1 Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo in June, as Size has opted to pitch Glorious Days into Hong Kong’s premier race day with two barrier trials under his belt this term but minus a prep race.

“It was an option I had and it looked as though that might be the best option for him,” said Size of the route he has taken with last season’s HKG1 Stewards’ Cup (1600m) victor. “He did a little bit ordinary through the summer and I had to give him a little bit more time off than I thought I would have to but at the moment I’m pretty pleased about that. He’s come back strong.”

Glorious Days had his first trial (1200m, dirt) this season on 15 November and closed off well within himself for third. And it was a similar scenario this morning as the gelding came home smoothly for an untested second, although with Whyte competing in Japan’s World Super Jockeys Series this weekend, Joao Moreira was the man in the saddle.

“He has been okay at home and it seems obvious that he is as healthy and as well as he has ever been, the only reservation I would have is that he has not been racing,” continued Size. “As far as his training is concerned and his trialling, and the way he is doing in the stable, it seems he is as good as ever if not better – we need to go to the races to find out but there are no negatives there.”

Size also had news of his other LONGINES Hong Kong Mile contender, Real Specialist. Fourth recently in the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile, the six-year-old Storming Home gelding will be blinkered first time for what will be his biggest test in next week’s G1.

“Real Specialist has done nothing wrong,” said Size. “He looked as if he was going to have a good season this season when I started to train and that has continued. I’ll put the blinkers on him in the international race to see if he can find a length because it looks like he is a couple of lengths short of these horses. He doesn’t like traffic too much – he was a little bit crowded for room last start and he looked like he didn’t enjoy it, so I thought if I put the blinkers on he might travel better. He just might find a length that is required for him to get some prize money.”

Glorious Days and Real Specialist are among the top-class field of 14 for the LONGINES Hong Kong Mile that includes crack French mare Moonlight Cloud and classic-winning English filly Sky Lantern, as well as Hong Kong’s young pretender Gold-Fun, winner of the G2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile last time, and Australia’s G1 Stradbroke Handicap winner Linton.

Linton was among the overseas stars that faced the fresh breeze at Sha Tin this morning. The striking grey seemed happy, exuberantly flicking out his feet dressage-style as he trotted back after some easy work.

Last year’s G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase victor Red Cadeaux appeared in fine order as he went for a spin on the dirt track, while fellow Vase contenders Mount Athos and Dandino also seemed to enjoy the sun-splashed environs. All three have arrived in Hong Kong off the back of good runs in the G1 Melbourne Cup.

Mount Athos had a leisurely wander down the turf straight to Sha Tin’s cavernous covered parade ring, which he walked around without a fuss.

“Mount Athos is in good form, he has travelled very well – it was a 15-hour door-to-door flight – he is eating great, his weight is good, so we are happy at the moment,” said Charlie Henson, representing trainer Luca Cumani.

“This race was always on the radar but he had to perform up to standard in the Melbourne Cup, which he did. That was a fantastic run from not a great barrier. He does tend to race a little bit keen and from that point of view he had to get some cover down the back, so from a wide barrier he ran a great race.”

USA raider Little Mike, winner of the 2012 G1 Breeders’ Cup Turf, also looked well as he cantered on the dirt track, as did fellow G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) contender Side Glance, fresh from a first G1 win in Australia’s Mackinnon Stakes earlier this month.

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