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Maxime Guyon aboard Junko after winning the Hong Kong Vase
Kicking off the Longines Hong Kong International Races for 2023 was the HK$24 million (US$3.07 million) Longines Hong Kong Vase (G1), a 2400 meter (about 1 1/2 mile) trip for older horses around 2 turns of the right-handed turf course at Sha Tin. After West Wind Blows was scratched, Lebensstil was sent off as the 6-5 favorite in the field of 8 off his win in the St. Lite Kinen (G2) at Nakayama. In to challenge him included 5-2 second choice Warm Heart, winner of the Prix Vermeille (G1) before finishing a close second in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1), and 5-1 third choice Junko, winner of the Grosser Preis von Bayern (G1) in Munich.
Jockey Zac Purton sent 27-1 La City Blanche to the lead first time by through easy fractions of 26.70, 52.34, and 1:18.44 while pressed by Warm Heart and stalked by 16-1 Geraldina. On the far turn Warm Heart moved up to take over the lead through a mile in 1:43.30 and 10f in 2:06.53. In the lane, Junko, last early under Maxime Guyon, came out for room and outfinished 11-2 fourth choice Zeffiro to win by a length in 2:30.12. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Warm Heart third, while favorite Lebensstil raced 5th early but faded late to finish last beaten 12 3/4 lengths.
# Horse Jockey Win Place 1 Junko Guyon 11.10 3.80 3 Zeffiro Lane 3.40 9 Warm Heart Moore 2.80 Winning Time: 2:30.12 $1 Quinella 1-3 17.90 $1 Exacta 1-3 39.00 $1 Trifecta 1-3-9 112.50Results Chart from HKJC with video replay
Left: Junko in the winner's circle. Winning trainer Andre Fabre said, "I'm really delighted. It was expected because he's improving race after race. He's not had a lot of races, he's only four. He had a setback in Deauville so he couldn't run in the Grand Prix and he had the race in Germany. He didn't run that much. He will be back in Dubai, we kept him for that and for the international races."
Right: JWinning jockey Maxime Guyon celebrates after the race. Guyon said, "We didn't know before the race if he would like this ground or not because normally he prefers the soft ground, but today in Hong Kong the ground was good. We had a good race, there weren't many runners so I wasn't too far back just after the last turn, he has a good turn of foot."
Left: Junko heads out for the post parade. Guyon added, "Everybody knows Andre Fabre. He's the best trainer. He has done a really good job with this horse because he has just won a second Group 1 with this horse - he's just won a Group 1 in Germany - and he comes to Hong Kong for a win and it's not easy to do that. I'm really happy for the team. It's a really important place, all the jockeys want to come to Hong Kong to finish the year and it's a really good weekend."
Right: All the connections and officials pose with their Longines watches and trophies after the trophy presentation for the Hong Kong Vase. Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said, "When you look at the sporting performances, it was a fantastic win by Junko and Andre Fabre, who is one of the greatest supporters of Hong Kong racing."
Left: Second place finisher Zeffiro heads out to the track before the race. Jockey Damian Lane said, "He ran super."
Right: Third place finisher Warm Heart heads out to the track. Jockey Ryan Moore said, "She ran great."
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