Sprint Cup has scope to become an international

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2012, 12:00am


Possibly it has just been serendipity but the racing over the past two weekends has taken on a familiar appearance, albeit configured a little differently.

Across the April 29 and May 6 meetings, we have had Group race features over 1,200m, 1,600m (international), 2,000m (international) and 2,400m, which looks not unlike a certain meeting in December.

We aren't expecting this to morph into a second Hong Kong international event, and we've previously been through the difficulties already involved in attracting horses at this time of the year, notwithstanding that the BMW Champions Mile on Sunday was the strongest yet. Of the stars from the World Cup meeting in Dubai, the winners anyone would most actively have pursued for this race would have been Cityscape and African Story and both were here.

The Queen Mother Memorial Cup, as a 2,400m handicap, doesn't have the right profile to become an international, unless it was to be swapped around with the Champions & Chater so the terms event came first, as it did until 2003.

But the reality of Hong Kong's racing environment is there simply isn't room for a lot of high-grade longer distance racing. Given limited race dates, limited races, the pursuit of 2,400m horses of good calibre will always be half-hearted and to expect other jurisdictions to populate the race in May looks an unreasonable hope.

The Sprint Cup, though, might be a horse of a different colour and even top Australian trainer Peter Moody, here with King's Rose last weekend, was responsive to the idea of the Jockey Club turning that race into an international.

There is a fairly consistent path being beaten these days by sprinters from Australia heading over to Royal Ascot, highlighted of course this year by Moody's champion, Black Caviar.

A stop in Hong Kong for a 1,200m sprint worth the proper money, or even a 1,000m sprint which was Moody's suggestion, would serve to break up a long trip to England and offer a chance to pick up something worthwhile on the way through.

While the finishing date of the Sydney carnival this year would not have been ideal for that, the new boss at Racing NSW, John Messara, has flagged a return to a Sydney carnival in 2013 which ties its race dates to Easter. That necessarily means that the dates move around year on year by several weeks and in many seasons that would offer the right kind of space between Group One sprints in Sydney and the last weekend in April here to make the Sprint Cup a valid proposition.

There is also the regular prospect of sprinters from Australia going to the KrisFlyer in Singapore, and the three-week break between the Sprint Cup and the KrisFlyer would be a suitable one on the way to that event.

Club officials said on Sunday they are satisfied the splitting of the Champions Mile and Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup was the right move, so the format of successive weekends of Group One international racing is probably not about to change, but that doesn't mean it can't be enhanced.