SHA TIN, December 7, 2017 – Blond Me, who captured her first Grade 1 event when taking the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine in October, will look to carry her winning form into the Group 1 Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin.
Canadian racing fans can watch and wager on all of the exciting action from the Hong Kong International Races on HPI. The 10-race card kicks off at 11:25PM ET on Saturday night with the Hong Kong Cup slated as Race 8 (3:30AM ET).
Trained by Andrew Balding for owner Barbara M. Keller, Blond Me arrived at Woodbine with a pair of Group 2 wins to her credit having taken the International Topkapi Trophy in Turkey and the Middleton Stakes at York, in England.
However, the connections were keen to see the five-year-old Tamayuz-Holda mare break through at the highest level. The talented chestnut came close when second in the Group 1 Nassau where she chased home the brilliant Winter.
Although the ground came up soft at Woodbine for the 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor, travelling head lass Leanne Masterton was optimistic going into the Canadian classic. Masterton has been aboard Blond Me through all of her trackwork in Canada and here in Hong Kong.
“She was second to Winter, on really bad ground and she beat Hydrangea, who was a subsequent Group 1 winner. So we knew that she could handle that ground,” said Masterton.
Sent to post at odds of 8-1 in the E.P. Taylor, Blond Me sat outside the Aidan O’Brien-trained Rain Goddess as Rainha Da Bateria set the pace through three-quarters in 1:17.20 with Kitten’s Roar moving up on even terms turning for home. Kitten’s Roar took command into the stretch, but Blond Me found her best run late to notch a one-length victory in 2:08.08.
“It was brilliant,” said Masterton. “That was probably the seventh time I’ve been over to Woodbine and I just love going back there, they treat us so well.”
Firm footing is likely for Sunday’s test in Hong Kong as Blond Me will look to score from Post 10 in a field of 12 that includes Werther, Neorealism, Time Warp and Deauville, who finished a flat 11th in the Ricoh Woodbine Mile in September.
“She’s athletic and not ground dependent. It was pretty soft at Woodbine but previously she won on fast ground at Istanbul. The lovely thing about a horse like that is you can travel with them and not have to worry,” said Masterton.
Blond Me arrived in Hong Kong late Saturday night from her home base at Kingsclere in the south of England and the well-travelled miss has settled in nicely.
“You always worry a little bit, but she’s travelled now to the United States, to Canada and been to Turkey,” offered Masterton. “Her first day here I actually had to ride her in the evening as she was too fresh to lead out in the morning. I got on her in the evening and she was squealing and happy.”
The chestnut put in a very solid work over the Sha Tin turf on Thursday morning finishing strongly at the wire. The breeze was a serious effort following a few days of galloping on the Sha Tin main track in front of a bevy of assembled media for the Hong Kong International Races.
“It takes her a few days (to settle in). On the dirt she’d go nice around the back and then get into the straight and she’s too busy looking at the cameras to concentrate on her work. Today was a different kettle of fish,” said Masterton. “Out on the turf her brain clicks into gear and into work mode. She felt great. And she did exactly the same thing two days out at Woodbine on the turf and she felt equally as good here today.”
Jockey Oisin Murphy, who has guided Blond Me through the majority of her recent starts including the E.P. Taylor breakthrough when travelling left-handed, will again take the reins from Masterton.
“Until Woodbine, she’d only won right-handed so this course is no worry at all,” noted Masterton. “Obviously, she does take a while to get into top gear so whether or not Oisin will be a little more prominent with her, I’m not sure. She does love passing horses.”
Also featured on the #HKIR card is the Hong Kong Vase (Race 4, 1AM ET), which includes Chemical Charge, recently sixth in the Pattison Canadian International taking on heavyweights Highland Reel and flashy Breeders’ Cup winner Talismanic; the Hong Kong Sprint (Race 5, 1:40AM ET), which boasts Mr. Stunning, Peniaphobia and Breeders’ Cup champ Stormy Liberal; and the Hong Kong Mile (Race 7, 2:50 AM ET), which boasts Ricoh Woodbine Mile runner-up Lancaster Bomber.