Japan launches five-pronged attack on Hong Kong Cup as HKIR attracts 24 overseas raiders | HK Racing

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Japan will launch a five-pronged attack on next month’s Group One Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) as it looks to win the city’s richest race for the fourth year running.

Panthalassa, Geoglyph, Jack d’Or, Danon The Kid and Lei Papale are set to make the trip from the Land of the Rising Sun to take on leading hometown hope Romantic Warrior in the HK$34 million feature on December 11.

Only one European galloper lines up in the Cup, with legendary Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien opting to tackle the 2,000m feature with Order Of Australia after the five-year-old finished sixth behind Golden Sixty in the 2020 Group One Hong Kong Mile.

The Cup is the jewel in the crown of this year’s HK$110 million Longines Hong Kong International Races, which will attract a total of 24 overseas raiders – the most since the same number descended on the 2018 edition of the marquee meeting. There are 17 individual Group One winners among the overseas contingent.

Panthalassa holds the highest international rating of the travellers on a mark of 121 and will look to build on Japan’s impressive record in the race.

On top of the wins of Loves Only You, Normcore and Win Bright in the past three years, the victories of Maurice (2016) and A Shin Hikari (2015) mean gallopers from the racing powerhouse have won the Cup in five of the past seven years.

Like globetrotting superstar Loves Only You, Panthalassa is trained by the great Yoshito Yahagi.

He was a winner of the Group One Dubai Turf (1,800m) at Meydan in March, and he turned heads with a swashbuckling run under Yutaka Yoshida in the Tenno Sho Autumn (2,000m) on October 30, stretching out to a massive lead before being grabbed by Equinox in the final strides.

Panthalassa is one of four Group One winners among the Japanese Cup contingent, with Geoglyph the most recent to succeed at the top level in April’s Satsuki Sho (2,000m).

Geoglyph will also enter international day off the back of a run in the Tenno Sho Autumn, where he finished ninth, while Jack d’Or was a close fourth in the same race.

Danon The Kid won the Group One Hopeful Stakes (2,000m) as a two-year-old in 2020, and he was last seen running second behind Serifos in the Group One Mile Championship at Hanshin on the weekend.

Lei Papale’s top-level victory came in the 2021 Osaka Hai (2,000m), and the five-year-old has a second crack at the Cup after finishing sixth – four and three-quarter lengths behind Loves Only You – last year.

Despite the quality of the raiders, overseas fixed-odds bookmakers have hometown hero Romantic Warrior as the $3.5 favourite. Danny Shum Chap-shing’s four-year-old is out to become the first local winner of the race since Glorious Forever in 2018.

Romantic Warrior returned in fine fettle on the weekend, taking out the Jockey Club Cup (2,000m) in his first run since April, and the Hong Kong Derby (2,000m) winner will attempt to add a second Group One success to his victory in last season’s QE II Cup (2,000m).

Russian Emperor is the other Group One winner set to represent the home side, and Douglas Whyte’s stable star tackles the Cup for the second time after finishing third – only a length behind Loves Only You – last year.

Rounding out the locals are Tourbillon Diamond, Ka Ying Star, Money Catcher and Savvy Nine.

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