Asia benefits from decision to expand World Series

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 12:00am

Last weekend's announcement that the World Series Racing Championship would add the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup and the Singapore Airlines International Cup has certainly buoyed those in favour of the series.

In the face of widespread negativity on the longevity of the series now that Emirates Airlines has finished as sponsor, the addition of the two new races has, at the very least, put a brave public face on the concept.

The timing of the new races in April/May will plug what was a four-month hole in the series between Dubai and the King George And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot before the races start to tumble all over each other in the second half of the year.

And it has also cleverly applied a little leverage to some of the high-class stables which might otherwise be reluctant to venture much further than Europe.

At first blush, the benefits for the Asian racing fraternity appear to be the added opportunities to rack up World Series points and to compete in high-stakes races. The plan that is under way in this part of the world to have horses from the Pacific Rim properly recognised in a racing world currently weighted in favour of the European and North American horseracing will also be assisted.

As Asian horses meet each other across national boundaries more frequently, it provides a solid reference point for when they compete in Hong Kong or elsewhere against the traditional northern hemisphere leaders. And the Jockey Club has indicated it will target South African horses as foreign runners in the QEII Cup, adding a further dimension to the international racing.

But we can only hope that the fear of being outpointed by the system will also bring out the stars of Europe, North America and Dubai. Two extra races in this region surely now make it possible for a horse from Japan, Australasia, possibly Hong Kong or Singapore to be crowned world champion.

Previously, this was not impossible but extremely unlikely with the bias to races staged in Europe (four races of the 12) and North America (four races), and one each to Hong Kong, Australia and Japan.

While the Dubai World Cup is included as part of Asia, the greatest likelihood is always that it will be the province of the North Americans or horses from the United Arab Emirates, many of which race regularly in Europe and are certainly thought of as being from there.

What that situation ensured was that, barring something extraordinary, the Asian horses including the Japanese and Australasians were up against it. They probably had to travel to race in Europe or America to be any show at all while the series might have been wrapped up by a European without venturing too far from home.

Now there will be not only two more races within reach of the Asian runners, but two races early in the sequence, with the possibility that the right Asian horse could get a shot at winning if able to set up a lead by the middle of the year.

For the sake of the series, we have to hope the big-name stables don't want to allow that to happen and try to snare those early Asian legs, even if just as spoilers to make it difficult for a horse from this part of the world to win through what they would see as the back door.

It's hard to imagine that the Godolphin team or Aidan O'Brien's Coolmore connection would happily ponder the idea that the winner of legs of the series in Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, for instance, could end up the world's champion racehorse without even having set hoof in Europe or in the United States.