Aidan O'Brien has sent twenty-nine horses to the Hong Kong International Races, enjoying three winners with the same number of horses finding the frame. All three of those successes have been in the G1 Longines Hong Kong Vase (2400m), twice with globetrotter Highland Reel (2015 and 2017 – he also finished second in the race in 2016) and Mogul in 2020.
For this year's running of the 'Vase', the team from Ballydoyle will be represented by the in-form three-year-old filly, Warm Heart, who has won two of her past three races, both at Group 1 level and both over 2400m, the same distance as the Hong Kong Vase. She has raced nine times for five victories and going right-handed has won twice from three starts at both Group 1 and Group 2 level.
Over this mile and half trip, Warm Heat has won three times and finished fifth in the Irish Oaks (on very soft ground). On her most recent start, she was narrowly defeated by outstanding mare Inspiral over ten furlongs in the Group 1 Breeders Cup Filly & Mare Turf at the start of November at Santa Anita, following two Group 1 victories in the Yorkshire Oaks at York in August followed by her second success in the Prix Vermeille at Longchamp in September.
Warm Heart likes to race on the pace and with no rain forecast in Hong Kong this week, track conditions should be perfect for her.
O'Brien explained the thinking behind Warm Heart contesting the Longines G1 Hong Kong Vase:
"We were debating what we'd do…Warm Heart ran over 10 furlongs in America, but she'd won her two Group 1s over a mile and a half.
"She's been very progressive, she's thrived physically, loves nicer ground, she's tactically quick and she doesn't surrender. She's been unbelievable really."
Based on form, there are only three other horses engaged that have won over this trip – Japanese contender Shahryar, French competitor Junko and local horse Russian Emperor, all of whom are Group 1 winners over the distance. Of the trio, the Japanese horse appears as the biggest threat to Warm Heart having won twice over the distance in the Japanese Derby and Sheema Classic in Dubai.