The horse that came within a nostril flare of defeating Australia’s turf queen Black Caviar last year, Moonlight Cloud will shoot for yet another Group 1 win when they jump favourite in the weekend’s Hong Kong Mile 2013.
One of the four lucrative majors running at Sha Tin for the famous Hong Kong International Race Day on Sunday, this year’s HK$20 million ($2.8 million AUS) Group 1 Hong Kong Mile (1600m) drew a final field of 14 gallopers.
The red hot favourite paying $2.30 in the latest Hong Kong Mile odds at Ladbrokes.com.au is French mare Moonlight Cloud, prepared by Freddy Head.
Aussie race fans may be familiar with the name as she was only just defeated by our own Black Caviar in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in June, 2012.
Since then Moonlight Cloud has gone on to win five more elite level races bringing her Group 1 tally to six.
She hasn’t been defeated since a failed bid in America last November winning all four of her 2013 starts, most recently the Group 1 Qatar Prix De La Foret (1400m) at Longchamp on October 6 by three lengths.
Head is confident his mare still has improvement in her too despite the Hong Kong Mile falling at the end of a big prep.
“She seems to be getting better with every run, and although the race is late in the year, she is very fresh and I am very happy that she is as well as she was during the summer,” he told the Racing Post.
The only concern is how she goes after making one of her rare trips outside of France, the last being her eighth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile (1609m) at Santa Anita last year, but Head’s travelling foreman Regis Barbedette said things were different this time.
“She has only travelled this far once before, that was for the Breeders’ Cup in California,” Barbedette said.
“That day, she was beaten because of a bad draw and an awful race.
“The weather here is great and the track will suit her. She will enjoy turning right rather than on the left hand, which she never really liked.”
Certainly on paper Moonlight Cloud is the deserving Hong Kong Mile favourite, but the fans down under will be cheering for one of the roughies in the pack.
Australia is represented in this year’s Hong Kong Mile field by reigning Stradbroke Handicap winning grey Linton.
Last seen running a disappointing eighth to Solzhenitsyn in the Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield on October 12, the Galileo seven-year-old is a $51 outsider to win their maiden international start on the weekend.
They landed in Hong Kong late last month in preparation for their International Race Day assault and are currently prepared by Troy Corstens and Carolyn Mason who have taken over from John Sadler.
Linton will be out to join the likes of Monopolize (1995-96), the Bart Cummings-trained Catalan Opening (1997) and the mighty Sunline (2000) as the Aussie-trained Hong Kong Mile winners.
Second pick behind Moonlight Cloud in the Hong Kong Mile betting markets at $4 meanwhile is Gold-Fun, the Le Vie Dei Colori gelding coming off three straight wins at the track.
After a first-up victory in the Group 3 The National Day Cup (1400m) in October they went on for a Group 2 win over the mile here 26 days later and then made it three on the trot with their narrow victory over Helene Spirit in the Group 2 Jockey Club Mile (1600m) – the traditional lead-up to the Hong Kong Mile.
Also in the mix are the likes of the Australian-bred John Size-trained Hussonet gelding Glorious Days racing first-up off a six month spell, the Richard Hannon-trained 1000 Guineas winner Sky Lantern, Casper Fownes’ consistent miler Packing Whiz and English raider Gordon Lord Byron.
Of the main chances it is Red Clubs filly Sky Lantern the connections of the favourite are most concerned about.
“Our main concern in the race would be Sky Lantern,” Barbedetee added.
“We also had a look at the local prep race and we always watch out for local milers, as they are very good.”
See below for the full Hong Kong Mile 2013 field and odds, prices you can lock in right now from wherever you are online at Ladbrokes.com.au or from your phone with their mobile site!