Ryan Moore hopes a spartan diet pays off in style at Sha Tin on Sunday morning when Aidan O’Brien’s dual-Group One winner Warm Heart lines up for the Hong Kong Vase.
For the first time, O’Brien’s Ballydoyle team are represented in all four Group One races at an International Carnival that brings the curtain down on 2023′s elite flat race action.
The four races are worth almost €14 million in prize money and Luxembourg will take his chance in the €4.2 million cup over 10 furlongs. It is the city’s richest race of the year off at 8.40 Irish time and live on Sky.
Moore will also team up with Aesop’s Fables in the €3 million sprint (off at 6.50) and Cairo in the €3.17 million mile (8.00) Both of those three-year-olds will carry first-time blinkers.
That the English jockey is boiling his frame down to do 8st 5lbs on Warm Heart in the €2.8 million vase (6.10) over a mile-and-a-half will convince many she is the best hope of Irish success.
It is the lowest Moore has done in the last year and comes on the back of sustaining a back injury last month that ruled him out of riding in the Japan Cup.
He returned to action at Happy Valley on Wednesday and O’Brien is in Hong Kong to mastermind final preparations for an attempt to improve on his Group One tally of 20 for the year to date.
The Irish man holds a record three vase victories with Highland Reel (2015 & ‘17) and Mogul in 2020. All were secured with Moore in the saddle and the jockey has been successful in all four top-flight events in the past.
Victory for Luxembourg would be a significant notch for O’Brien. Jim Bolger’s Alexander Goldrun remains the only Irish trained winner of the hugely lucrative prize which for the last dozen years has been split between winners trained locally or in Japan.
Last year’s hero Romantic Warrior is back to defend his title having narrowly landed Australia’s Cox Plate on his last start.
Luxembourg represents top-class European form through a narrow defeat to his stable companion Auguste Rodin in the Irish Champion Stakes in September. He will break from stall 10 of the 11 runners.
“It’s going to be great, hopefully we have him right and well and hopefully we’ll be able to gauge those mile-and-a-quarter races all over the world,” O’Brien said.
Warm Heart has just Japanese star Lebensstil ahead of her in vase betting and should relish stepping back to a mile-and-a-half having found only Inspiral narrowly too good at the Breeders Cup.
“She has a nice weight pull, she’s well in and is a very consistent filly. It looks like she’s a little bit better maybe at a mile-and-a-half,” said O’Brien.
Cairo, runner-up to Paddington in the Irish Guineas in the Spring, must take on the biggest Hong Kong star of all, Golden Sixty, in the mile.
Golden Sixty, winner of the race in 2020 and 2021, was runner-up to California Spangle a year ago and is returning from a 224-day absence.