Ryan Moore will be on duty for Aidan O’Brien when racing’s dominant partnership aim to finish 2023 on a high at Sunday’s International Carnival in Hong Kong.
Although a back injury ruled Moore out of the recent Japan Cup in Tokyo, the English jockey returns to action for an international riders’ competition at the Happy Valley track in Hong Kong on Wednesday.
It’s timely news for O’Brien who on Monday was honoured at the 2023 Horse Racing Ireland awards in Dublin. O’Brien once again received the flat-racing prize at a ceremony in which his dual-Derby and Breeders’ Cup winner Auguste Rodin was crowned Horse of the Year.
The Deep Impact colt, also winner of the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in September, proved the highlight of a 2023 campaign that, to date, has yielded O’Brien 20 Group One victories.
Other winners at Monday night’s ceremony in the Mansion House included champion jump jockey Paul Townend who picked up a first HRI prize in the National Hunt category. It came for acclaimed winning rides on Galopin Des Champs in the Gold Cup and I Am Maximus in the Irish Grand National.
The National Hunt achievement award went to veteran trainer John Kiely after he saddled A Dream To Share to score at the Cheltenham Festival while Wesley Joyce landed the flat achievement prize.
The Limerick city native completed a remarkable comeback to race-riding after suffering serious injuries at the 2022 Galway festival. Joyce returned to action in August and finished the season with 11 winners.
Ballinrobe was named HRI’s racecourse of the year, the Co Mayo track repeating its 2013 victory in the category. A public vote determined the 2023 Ride of the Year went to Amy Jo Hayes for her winning spin on Redstone Well at Leopardstown in July.
Jessica Harrington collected the Contribution to the Industry Award while Davy Russell was given the Racing Hero prize.
Russell retired in April after a glittering career in the saddle that included the Cheltenham Gold Cup among 61 individual Grade One winners. Russell rode 25 winners in all at the Cheltenham Festival.
The global focus switches to Hong Kong’s other track at Sha Tin on Sunday where flat racing’s international programme has its traditional annual swansong.
A quartet of Group One prizes worth prize money of up to €14 million in all will see O’Brien try to carve out new ground.
Ireland’s record-breaking champion trainer is set to have runners in all four races for the first time, including Luxembourg in the €4.2 million Hong Kong Cup over 1¼ miles.
Hong Kong’s richest race will see local star Romantic Warrior try to win back-to-back after proving his international credentials with a dramatic last-gasp victory in Australia’s Cox Plate last month.
Despite boasting top-class European form this season, including a narrow defeat by Auguste Rodin in the Irish Champion Stakes, Luxembourg is as high as 9-1 in some betting lists to score.
The triple-Group One winner was subsequently forced to miss the Champion Stakes at Ascot with a foot problem but heads a powerful Ballydoyle attack on Sunday’s prestigious action.
Aesop’s Fables goes in the €3 million Sprint while the unexposed outsider Cairo takes his chance in the Mile (€3.7 million.)
Warm Heart, runner-up to Inspiral at the Breeders’ Cup last month, returns to 1½ miles for the €2.8 million Vase and is a general 9-2 shot.
O’Brien has won the Vase a record three times with Highland Reel (2015 and 2017) and Mogul (2020) with Moore on board every time.
Moore has won all four carnival prizes at least once in his career, but O’Brien will hope to strike outside of the Vase for a first time.
Jim Bolger’s Alexander Goldrun in 2004 remains the only Irish-trained winner of the Cup which is a rare major international turf prize yet to fall to O’Brien.
The Ballydoyle raiding party landed in Hong Kong at the weekend and began acclimatising at Sha Tin with some gentle canters.
O’Brien’s representative Pat Keating said on Monday: “They got here on Saturday morning and everything has been great, not a bother with them.
“This was their first time on the track this week, just an easy lap behind the lead horse. We’ll just be gradually building it up through the week but we’re very happy with them.”
As well as half a dozen domestic Group One winners for O’Brien this year, there have also been eight in Britain with a trio of successes each in France and in the US.
2023 Horse Racing Ireland Awards Winners
Contribution to the Industry: Jessica Harrington
Irish Racing Hero Award: Davy Russell
Horse of the Year: Auguste Rodin
Emerging Talent: John Gleeson
National Hunt Award: Paul Townend
National Hunt Achievement: John Kiely
Point-to-Point Award: Barry O’Neill
Flat Award: Aidan O’Brien
Flat Achievement Award: Wesley Joyce
Ride of the Year winner: Amy Jo Hayes
Racecourse of the Year: Ballinrobe