While the green light for Top Knight is still pending, it is now certain that the Singapore flag will still be flown at the Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) at Sha Tin on December 13, with Inferno a confirmed starter in the Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1200m).
The Hong Kong Jockey Club has informed trainer Cliff Brown and the Barree Stable that their application to run their superstar in the HK$22 million (S$3.8 million) Group 1 showpiece was successful. Trainer Michael Clements, on the other hand, has been told Singapore Derby winner Top Knight is on standby for the HK$23 million Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Mile (1600m).
Brown and Barree’s principal owner Glenn Whittenbury lodged in the paperwork with the Sports Road club shortly after the Holy Roman Emperor four-year-old took out the Group 1 Lion City Cup (1200m) on October 25, making it back-to-back Group 1 victories following his triumph in the last Leg of the Singapore Three-Year-Old Challenge, the Singapore Guineas (1600m) on September 26.
Inferno (Vlad Duric) strolls to an easy win in the Lion City Cup on October 25, picture Singapore Turf Club
With three (2019 Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe, 2019 Group 3 Saas Fee Stakes and 2020 Group 2 Singapore Classic) of his other six wins from nine starts (only one defeat, a second in a Class 3 race in February when still not the finished article) recorded at Group level, connections felt there was nothing much left for Inferno to prove in his own backyard.
The fact that the Air Travel Bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore will kick off this Sunday has also been a big factor in making this trip possible, when just a few months ago, any notion of Singapore gallopers racing overseas would have been unthinkable given the COVID-19 situation around the world.
“It’s tremendous to get the invite for Inferno from the Hong Kong Jockey Club. It’s a nice horse to take there and it’ll also be my first participation at the Hong Kong International Races,” said Brown.
“Obviously, it’s great the Air Travel Bubble will be in place then, but we still have to go under very strict protocols even if we don’t have to do any 14-day quarantine.
“We as trainers can only go to the stables and head back to our hotel. We’ll be segregated, but that’s okay, that’s the way it is.
“Only my track rider Sabri and myself will be going, Glenn can’t go. Hong Kong Jockey Club has booked our tickets on December 3 and Inferno leaves on December 4.”
No air ticket booking was made for a jockey as it’s Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton who will ride Inferno.
While Inferno has proven he can run the mile in the Singapore Guineas, Brown, whose only other international foray came with Debt Collector’s (Barree’s first champion) unplaced run in the Grade 1 Dubai Turf (1800m) at Meydan in 2017, said there was no doubt the target race was always the Hong Kong Sprint for Inferno.
“We only applied for the Sprint. We know it’s a high-pressure race and the pace is always on, but that’s the race for him, he deserves a shot,” said the Australian handler.
“It’s the other way of going, but he gallops that way on Track 6 here. He’ll do the bulk of his gallops here before he goes, he trials next Thursday.”