Japan’s Win Bright will aim to become the second horse in history to snare back-to-back Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) victories this Sunday (13 December) at Sha Tin – and he’ll do so looking to uphold an unblemished record over 2000m at the big track.
California Memory did it in 2011 and 2012 and this weekend the dazzling grey will look to shine for a second time in the HK$28 million feature before impending retirement.
“I hope so – this is his main target this year and also his final race of his career – I just want to win this race,” regular jockey Masami Matsuoka said.
The son of Stay Gold is two for two over 2000m at Sha Tin, he nailed a record-setting win over a pair of prolific Group 1 winners and Horse of the Year – Exultant and Lys Gracieux in the 2019 FWD QEII Cup (2000m), before staving off an unlucky Magic Wand in this race last year.
His 2000m course record at Sha Tin still stands at 1m 58.81s, and Matsuoka, who partnered him to both of his headline making exploits in Hong Kong, will take the reins again for Sunday’s test.
“There is no problem with him (Win Bright), he’s feeling himself,” Matsuoka said.
The grey’s most recent two runs at Nakayama and Tokyo haven’t exactly caught the eye, although, his two runs prior to last year’s Hong Kong Cup win revealed similar performances.
He finished seventh two starts ago in the Group 2 Nakayama Kinen (1800m) on 1 March, before grabbing a less than competitive 10th in the Tenno Sho Autumn (2000m) on 1 November.
“Sha Tin Racecourse and the climate in Hong Kong is very suitable for him, it’s a similar season, a cold season in December so it is easy to train him in Japan as well,” Matsuoka said.
Matsuoka has had a lengthy relationship with the classy grey, since his first race as a two-year-old over 1800m in a newcomer’s race at Tokyo in June, 2016.
“I have been on his back since he was a two-year-old until now as he continued his career and the main reason I continued my career as a jockey is because of Win Bright – it is a precious and a memorable memory in my life,” Matsuoka said.
Matsuoka was sidelined for eight months in February, 2020 with a bone fracture in a race fall. He has 830 wins to his name across a 17-year career in the saddle.
Win Bright’s triumph in this race last year saw him join Jim And Tonic (1999), Vengeance Of Rain (2005) and Designs On Rome (2014) as only the fourth horse to have the QEII Cup and Hong Kong Cup in the same year.
The grey faces seven others including Skalleti, Danon Premium, Furore, Time Warp, Dances With Dragon, Normcore and Magical, who is looking to become Aidan O’Brien’s most prolific Group 1 winner with eight top-level successes.
The Japanese have had a long and successful history in Sunday’s HK$28 million feature with six wins in Hong Kong’s biggest race: Fujiyama Kenzan (1995), Midnight Bet (1998), Agnes Digital (2001), A Shin Hikari (2015), Maurice (2016) and Win Bright (2019).