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Today sees the conclusion of a remarkable season in Hong Kong for New Zealand thoroughbreds, having out-performed all other nations represented in terms of number of winners, strike rate of winners to runners and prizemoney won. New Zealand-bred horses are also the highest represented of any country in the recently released Hong Kong Champion Awards nominees, with five individuals up for six different awards.
Nominated for two awards, the Champion Stayer and Champion Middle-Distance titles, is the Danny Shum-trained Thumbs Up (Shinko King x Regelle by Exploding Prospect). Footing it against Hong Kong's best, he's had eight starts in Hong Kong to win on two occasions and place on four. The courageous four-year-old fought to the line to win the HK-1 HKJC Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Mile ahead of fellow NZ-bred and award nominee More Bountiful (Van Nistelrooy x Centaine Gu Li by Centaine). He was second in the HK-1 HKJC Hong Kong Derby (2000m), second to reigning Champion Middle Distance Horse and Stayer Viva Pataca in the HK-1 HKJC Citi Champions and Chater Cup (2400m), as well as third in the Group 1HKJC Audemars Piquet Queen Elizabeth Cup (2000m).
Heading those nominated for the Most Improved Horse title is John Moore's 2006 South Island Sale graduate More Bountiful.
More Bountiful's rating increased 72 points to 124 since the start of the season including five wins in a row before going down by the smallest of margins to Thumbs Up in the Hong Kong Mile. He subsequently took out the HK-2 HKJC Chairman's Trophy and in doing so beat NZ-bred, Fellowship, and Viva Pataca.
Queensland Bloodstock agent John Foote secured More Bountiful for NZ$38,000 from Little Avondale Stud.
It will be the third year in a row a New Zealand horse has won the Most Improved title, with Sight Winner the victor last season and Armada (Towkay) the season before.
Nominated for the Champion Sprinter Award from the John Size stable is HK-2 HKJC Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) winner Enthused (Centaine x Free as a Bird by Jugah).
Always positively ridden close to the pace by Douglas Whyte, Enthused mixed it with the best of Hong Kong's sprinters throughout the whole season with his defining victory coming in the HK-2 HKJC Cathay Pacific International Sprint Trial. His consistency for John Size saw him place in the HK 1 Chairman's Sprint Prize and the HK-1 Centenery Sprint Cup, while he ran a bold fourth in the Group 1 HKJC Cathay Pacific International Sprint when just one length away from the winner, Inspiration.
Aquanita Racing purchased Enthused at the 2005 Karaka Select Sale for NZ$40,000 from Windsor Park Stud.
NZ-bred geldings, Eqyptian Ra (Woodborough x Egyptian Queen by Karioi Lad) and Sight Winner (Faltaat x Kinjinette by Kinjite), account for two of the three nominees in the Champion Miler category.
In his second year in Hong Kong, Sight Winner took out the premier race of the season for milers, the Group 1 Hong Kong Champions Mile. He's won on seven occasions and placed on six for John Size. Another John Foote purchase, he was bought from the same sale as Enthused for NZ$60,000 from Westbury Stud.
The bold front-running tactics of Tony Cruz's Egyptian Ra ensured a stellar season for the gelding who placed at Group 1 level in New Zealand as a two-year-old before heading to Hong Kong. Now seven, Egyptian Ra raced to three successes from seven starts this season including victory over Good Ba Ba in both the HK-1 HKJC Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup and the HK-2 HKJC Cathay Pacific International Mile Trial.
New Zealand-based stallions have also been well represented not only as sires but also broodmare sires.
Waikato Stud sires Centaine and O'Reilly head the Broodmare Sire and General Sire Tables respectively. O'Reilly is joined by Shinko King, Stravinsky, Faltaat and Towkay in the top eight sires in Hong Kong.
Heading into the last day of racing, New Zealand horses have clearly out-performed any other nationality in Hong Kong this season. Accumulating the most prizemoney over the season to date they have amassed HK$293,343,112 from 203 wins from just 458 starters. In comparison, Australian-bred horses accounted for 494 starters (36 more) in Hong Kong and produced just 175 (28 less) winners for HK$241,039,341 (HK$52,303,771 less) prizemoney.
On top of that New Zealand-breds laid claim to ten stakes victories with British horses taking five and the Australian's four.