Hong Kong is something of an oddity as a horse racing jurisdiction. It is home to some of the best horses in the world and some of the richest racing, yet has no breeding industry of its own to supply its thoroughbred population. Instead, imports, almost all of them geldings, account for Hong Kong’s 1200-odd racehorses. Europe and Australasia are the two principal sources of these imports and that’s reflected in the make-up of the lists of the most successful sires in Hong Kong for the 2016/17 season which ended in July.
The sires table is an interesting mix of stallions that are household names in either the northern or southern hemispheres, as well as some that have earned fame on both sides of the equator as successful shuttlers, but others, such as Polan, are much more obscure.
Polan finished ninth in the prize-money table thanks entirely to the earnings of Helene Paragon, winner of the Stewards’ Cup and Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup and runner-up in the Hong Kong Mile last December. Formerly known as Sir Andrew when racing in France and Spain earlier in his career (third in the Prix Jean Prat), Helene Paragon is one of only two foals by the French listed winner Polan, a son of Ballymacoll’s 2000 Guineas and King George winner Golan.
Another sire in the prize-money standings who owes his position largely to the work of one horse is fourth-placed Street Boss, sire of Hong Kong’s latest Derby winner and posthumous Horse of the Year Rapper Dragon (formerly Street Dragon in Australia) who sadly suffered a fatal injury in the Champions Mile in May little more than a month after he was the subject of this article at thebreedingshed.
Other stallions, on the other hand, were represented by as many as 30 different horses in the latest Hong Kong season. To make some meaningful comparisons, thebreedingshed took all the sires with ten or more individual runners (there were 28 of them*) and divided their total earnings (HK dollars) by number of runners to give an earnings per horse (EPH) score.
The table below shows the top ten sires with ten or more runners by EPH, i.e. total earnings divided by number of runners. The EPH figure is shown in red followed by number of horses/number of winners-number of wins
- HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR (Danehill) 1,826,823 22/10-18
- SEBRING (More Than Ready) 1,650,613 13/5-6
- STARCRAFT (Soviet Star) 1,642,388 13/7-17
- SHAMARDAL (Giant’s Causeway) 1,630,132 12/2-3
- I AM INVINCIBLE (Invincible Spirit) 1,582,118 10/7-15
- CHOISIR (Danehill Dancer) 1,478,363 10/4-6
- PINS (Snippets) 1,332,467 12/5-6
- ENCOSTA DE LAGO (Fairy King) 1,143,963 12/7-16
- EXCEED AND EXCEL (Danehill) 1,134,059 24/13-24
- FASTNET ROCK (Danehill) 1,113,025 30/15-27
Top of the list by this measure was Holy Roman Emperor who also happened to be the sire with the highest overall earnings. Top miler Beauty Only (who’d begun his racing career as Gentleman Only in Italy), winner of the Hong Kong Mile and Group 2 Jockey Club Mile was Holy Roman Emperor’s best horse, but he was also represented by a former Horse of the Year Designs On Rome, winner of the Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy, and by the Group 3 Sha Tin Vase winner Lucky Year (formerly Lil Caesar), from one of Holy Roman Emperor’s Australian crops.
Second by EPH was one-time Australian champion two-year-old Sebring, a son of US/Australian shuttler More Than Ready who is himself 14th in the list by EPH and sire of the Group 3 Queen Mother Memorial Cup winner Eagle Way over the long distance by Hong Kong standards of 2400m. Sebring’s leading earner was one of the top sprinters, Lucky Bubbles, winner of the Chairman’s Sprint Prize and Group 2 Premier Bowl and runner-up in the Hong Kong Sprint.
Third by EPH was Starcraft who raced with success in both Australia and Europe. He had the best strike rate of any sire in this study, with 17 wins from 82 runs equating to 20.7%. House of Fun and Winner’s Way won five and four races respectively during the season (the latter runner-up in the Group 3 Premier Cup), while Blizzard won another Group 3 handicap, the Chinese Club Challenge Cup.
Only two of Shamardal’s twelve runners in Hong Kong were successful during the season but he finished fourth by EPH. That was largely thanks to the efforts of the German-bred Pakistan Star who was twice runner-up to Rapper Dragon, including in the Derby, and also finished second (to Japan’s Neorealism) in the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup. Shamardal seems sure to prove popular as a sire for Hong Kong as he’s also the sire of the now retired former Horse of the Year Able Friend, runner-up in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup.
Invincible Spirit’s top Australian sire son I Am Invincible was fifth by EPH. Five-time sprint winner Victory Marvel was I Am Invincible’s most successful horse, and while he lacked a standout performer, he had the top winning percentage with seven of his ten runners being successful.
With a strong presence in both hemispheres, it will come as no suprise that sons of Danehill figure prominently among the most popular sires in Hong Kong. Besides Holy Roman Emperor, Exceed And Excel, Fastnet Rock, Keeper, Darci Brahma and Commands all had more than ten runners.
Exceed And Excel is the sire of Hong Kong’s top-rated horse at present, Mr Stunning, winner of the Group 2 Sprint Cup and runner-up in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize. Meanwhile, another successful reverse shuttler Fastnet Rock had the most number of wins (27) and winning horses (15) during the season. He had the first two in the Group 3 Lion Rock Trophy in June over a mile in which Booming Delight (formerly Out And About) beat fellow Irish-bred Eastern Express.
Danehill also makes his present felt through the Danehill Dancer stallions Choisir and Mastercraftsman. Rather untypically for him, Choisir’s best horse was the 2000m performer Secret Weapon (out of a Montjeu mare), winner of the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup and placed in the Hong Kong Cup and Hong Kong Gold Cup.
Australian Guineas winner Pins and former champion Australian sire Encosta de Lago are the other sires in the top ten by EPH. Pins was represented primarily by Hong Kong’s New Zealand-bred champion sprinter Aerovelocity, winner of the Hong Kong Sprint for the second time in December. The Group 3 Centenary Vase winner Supreme Profit was Encosta de Lago’s top earner, while his son Northern Meteor was not far behind him in the EPH table in 12th.
*Sires represented by ten or more horses in the 2016/17 Hong Kong season: CHOISIR, COMMANDS, DARCI BRAHMA, DUTCH ART, ELUSIVE CITY, ENCOSTA DE LAGO, EXCEED AND EXCEL, FASTNET ROCK, HIGH CHAPARRAL, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR, I AM INVINCIBLE, IFFRAAJ, KEEPER, MASTERCRAFTSMAN, MORE THAN READY, NORTHERN METEOR, NOT A SINGLE DOUBT, O’REILLY, PINS, SAVABEEL, SEBRING, SHAMARDAL, SHOWCASING, STARCRAFT, STRATUM, THORN PARK, TOWKAY, WRITTEN TYCOON