O’Brien aiming to end 2022 with more Group One glory in Hong Kong

Honeysuckle’s next target still likely to be the Irish Champion Hurdle in February

It’s closer to Christmas than the classics but Aidan O’Brien’s Group One ambitions for 2022 extend one final time to Hong Kong this weekend.

Ireland’s champion trainer has a trio of horses in the mix for the final big international flat carnival of the year at Sha Tin.

O’Brien will bid for a fourth success in the 1½ mile Longines Hong Kong Vase (worth approximately €2.4 million) with the Ballydoyle pair, Stone Age and Broome.

He also has a shot at a first victory in the 10-furlong Cup (worth about €4.1 million) with his former Breeders Cup winner, Order Of Australia.


They are two of the four Group One races up for grabs at the prestigious Hong Kong fixture that traditionally brings the curtain down on the year’s top-class flat action.

O’Brien twice landed the Vase in 2015 and 2017 with Highland Reel and was also successful two years ago with Mogul.

He has twice been placed in the Cup through Magical who was third in 2020 and Magic Wand who was runner-up the year before.

Stone Age finished runner-up in last month’s Breeders Cup Turf in Keeneland and is a general 7-1 shot in betting lists to secure a first career Group One.

“I was delighted with Stone Age who had a good position throughout at Keeneland, stayed on well and looks the right type for Sha Tin,” said O’Brien in Hong Kong.

Broome was runner-up in last year’s Breeders Cup Turf but could finish only sixth to Rebel’s Romance in the race last month.

The French pair Botanik and Bubble Gift, as well as Germany’s Mendocino, are also in the European mix for the Vase.

Order Of Australia will race further than a mile for the first time in over two years in the Cup event which was famously won by Jim Bolger’s Alexander Goldrun in 2004. The 2020 Breeders Cup Mile winner is among the 16-1 outsiders for that race.

O’Brien enjoyed notable international success at the Breeders Cup in Keeneland last month with three winners.

In other news, the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival in February remains the next target for Honeysuckle who dramatically lost her unbeaten record in Sunday’s Hatton’s Grace Hurdle.

“At the moment, the Irish Champion Hurdle is the plan. It was a good run on Sunday, her first run of the season and we’re happy, so onwards and upwards,” said Peter Molony, spokesman for owner Kenny Alexander, on Monday.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column