Featuring among the 71 entries for a world-class trio of Group 1 races, the HK$25 million FWD QEII Cup (2000m), HK$20 million FWD Champions Mile (1600m) and HK$20 million Chairman's Sprint Prize (1200m), are all four of last December's LONGINES Hong Kong International Races Group 1 winners - Japan's Win Marilyn and Hong Kong's California Spangle , Romantic Warrior and Wellington .
Celebrating the return of international competitors to FWD Champions Day after the 2022 meeting was restricted to solely Hong Kong runners because of COVID restrictions, the 2023 entry contains overseas nominations from Australia (16), Japan (16), Great Britain (six), United Arab Emirates (three), France (one), Germany (one) and New Zealand (one).
A total of 27 entries have been lodged for Hong Kong runners, including 10 individual Group 1 winners - Golden Sixty, Romantic Warrior, Lucky Sweynesse, Wellington, California Spangle, Waikuku, Russian Emperor, Panfield, Beautyverse and La City Blanche.
Japan's contingent is spearheaded by five individual Group 1 victors – G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) champion Win Marilyn, Danon The Kid, Geraldina, Killer Ability and Pixie Knight.
Bolstered by nominations from champion Australian-based trainer Chris Waller (Nature Strip ), Charlie Appleby (Nations Pride and Warren Point ), William Haggas (Dubai Honour), Annabel Neasham (Laws Of Indices) and Takahisa Tezuka (Win Marilyn), the FWD Champions Day entry also contains 41 Group 1-placed or Group 2 and Group 3 winners or place-getters.
Mr. Andrew Harding, The Hong Kong Jockey Club's Executive Director, Racing said: "It is very encouraging to see the quality of the international horses among the nominations after COVID-19 last season prevented us from welcoming overseas competitors. We are delighted by the calibre of this year's entries.
"The reappearance of Win Marilyn, who so brilliantly won at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, along with other high-class contenders from Japan, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, France, Germany and the United Arab Emirates as well as the best Hong Kong has to offer lays the platform for a wonderful FWD Champions Day.
"The presence of these magnificent horses along with champion jockeys and trainers will allow Hong Kong to showcase international racing at its very best and following on from the incredible LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, we are confident FWD Champions Day will reach the highest standards."
Recently restored to the top of the LONGINES World's Best Racehorse Rankings, Francis Lui-trained Golden Sixty could attempt to chase a third consecutive FWD Champions Mile, while the eight-time G1 winner also holds an entry for the FWD QEII Cup.
If the record-breaking galloper heads to the FWD Champions Mile, he could face a trio of Australian-trained G1 winners - Hinged, Laws Of Indices and Zaaki - crack New Zealander Aegon, Japan's Danon The Kid as well as a cluster of familiar Hong Kong rivals, led by California Spangle and Waikuku.
Manfred Man's Lucky Sweynesse, rated Hong Kong's top sprinter at 130 after last Sunday's devastating win in the G1 Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m), looms as dual winner Wellington's most formidable local obstacle as Richard Gibson's champion bids for a third successive victory in the feature sprint.
While California Spangle is also entered for the Chairman's Sprint Prize as well as the FWD Champions Mile, there is no shortage of foreign sprinting firepower entered for the Chairman's Sprint Prize.
Australian nominations also include Nature Stripe, prodigious three-year-olds Giga Kick, winner of The Everest (1200m), and Lofty Strike, already a dual runner-up G1 runner-up with seconds in the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) and Newmarket Handicap (1200m).
The strength of Japan's invariably potent sprint contingent will be further tested in the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen (1200m) at Chukyo Racecourse this Sunday (26 March) when Meikei Yell, Pixie Knight, Divination and Aguri attempt to enhance Hong Kong claims.
Dubai-based Bhupat Seemar has three entries in the Chairman's Sprint Prize - Logo Hunter , Sound Money and Tuz.
A total of 35 entries have been received for the FWD QEII Cup as Romantic Warrior attempts to defend his crown against the likes of G1 winners Win Marilyn, Golden Sixty, Alenquer, El Bodegon, Dubai Honour, Nations Pride, Russian Emperor, Panfield, Danon The Kid, Killer Ability and the impeccably-bred Geraldina.
Winner of the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2200m) at Hanshin Racecourse on 13 November, Geraldina is a daughter of champion sire and racehorse Maurice, winner of the 2015 G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m), and 2016 G1 Champions Mile and G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) at Sha Tin and outstanding mare Gentildonna, whose incredible career featured G1 victories in the Japan Cup (twice), Arima Kinen and Dubai Sheema Classic.