O’Brien’s Mogul hoping to retain his crown in the Hong Kong Vase

1,000 Guineas heroine Mother Earth takes on local superstar Golden Sixty in the mile at Sha Tin

Irish hopes of success in flat racing's final big international fixture of 2021 are in tried and trusted hands in Hong Kong on Sunday morning. Aidan O'Brien's Mogul defends his crown in the Longines Hong Kong Vase – live on Sky Sports Racing at 6am – and he is one of a three-pronged Ballydoyle attack on the prestigious international card at Sha Tin.

O'Brien's 1,000 Guineas heroine Mother Earth takes on the local superstar Golden Sixty in the Mile (7.50am), while Bolshoi Ballet is an outsider in the €3.4 million climax to the programme, the mile and a quarter Cup off at 8.30am.

He is joined by Jim Bolger's classic hero Mac Swiney in a contest that also sees the English hope Dubai Honour take on the Japanese Breeders Cup heroine Loves Only You.

Bolger combined with jockey Kevin Manning to win the Cup in 2004 with Alexander Goldrun, while O'Brien twice before landed the Vase with Highland Reel (2015 and 2017). Ireland's only other success at the international carnival came 30 years ago through Dermot Weld's Additional Risk.


Ryan Moore rides the three O'Brien hopes and has nominated Mogul as his best chance in the mile and a half Vase. The colt has not won since his impressive success in the race a year ago which promised a lucrative four-year-old campaign.

"He's had a quiet year. He started in Dubai and ran respectably, and ran a good race in Paris in the Prix Ganay, before the ground was very soft at Epsom for the Coronation and he didn't like it," Moore said. "It was the same again when he went back to Deauville (in August).

“A few things haven’t gone quite right for him through the summer, so he’s been lightly raced. His work’s been good at home and he looks great. We know he likes Sha Tin and he likes quick ground. I believe Aidan’s very happy with him, so we’re hoping that he can step back in the right direction.

“He showed a couple of times last year he’s very talented. He’s a handsome horse with a great pedigree, and I still have faith that he can get back on track. Aidan would like to have put a run in him but that didn’t happen, but we think he’s in good shape. I suppose Mogul would look our best chance on paper.”

European interest

Up against Mogul is the 2019 winner Glory Vase from Japan as well as Pyledriver who won that Coronation Cup at Epsom in June. Other European interest comes from the French filly Ebaiyra, who could be the final runner in the illustrious training career of 77-year-old Alain De Royer Dupre.

Mother Earth has her 10th start of 2021 in the Mile, where she will attempt to secure her third career Group 1. She is the only three-year-old in the 11-strong field dominated by last year’s winner Golden Sixty. Mac Swiney is a general 14-21 shot to emulate Alexander Goldrun for the Bolger team in the final leg of the four international contests up for grabs.

The Irish 2,000 Guineas winner bounced back to form with a third to Sealiway in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October, a place behind Dubai Honour, after a less than clear run at one point. Ground conditions will be very different in Sha Tin but bookmakers reckon he is the number one Irish hope ahead of his old rival Bolshoi Ballet.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column