Free ticket to Breeders' Cup
HK Champions Mile winner will compete against best in America
Hong Kong's status as a world leader in thoroughbred racing was given added recognition yesterday when one of the Jockey Club's international races became a recognised qualifying event for America's Breeders' Cup Mile.
The winner of the Group One HK$8 million Champions Mile, to be run at Sha Tin on April 29, will now gain automatic entry to the Breeders' Cup Mile in October, bypassing a raft of expensive nomination fees that apply to most American and European candidates. It becomes the first overseas race with Breeders' Cup affiliation.
Breeders' Cup Limited and the Hong Kong Jockey Club have also agreed to jointly fund a US$1 million bonus for the winner of the Breeders' Cup Mile-Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile double.
And yesterday's announcement also featured news that Hong Kong fans would this year, for the first time, be able to wager on the Breeders' Cup meeting.
Jockey Club chairman John Chan Cho-chak yesterday welcomed the news, saying the strategic partnership with Breeders' Cup Limited will strengthen Hong Kong's position at the 'cutting edge' of international racing.
'It is one of the greatest compliments yet paid to the continued rising quality of Hong Kong racing that two of our signature international races are to tie in with the Breeders' Cup,' Chan said.
Chan said last year, when announcing the appointment of Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges as chief executive officer of the Jockey Club, that his global vision was one of the qualities that won 'EB' the top job, and this deal will be seen as the latest evidence of that vision.
'Racing's future lies in its globalisation and it is vital that we promote it as a sport that transcends local borders,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said yesterday. 'This landmark agreement between the club and Breeders' Cup Limited will have two immediate and very positive benefits: it will enhance international competition on the racetrack and deepen commingled betting pools off it.
'It is also very important to establish links with million-dollar prize money incentives between some of the world's greatest mile races, two of which are highlights at the end of the season world championships in North America and Hong Kong,' he added.
The Champions Mile is expected to be the only Breeders' Cup qualifying race staged outside America in 2007, though the programme is expected to expand to from eight to 10 premier international races in 2008. Hong Kong's commitment to wagering on the Breeders' Cup events is a central part of the agreement.
'One of the primary areas of future growth for the Breeders' Cup is the international wagering market and Hong Kong is the linchpin for that growth,' said Breeders' Cup president, Greg Avioli.
'We can look forward to marketing the Breeders' Cup World Championships to the enthusiastic racing fans in Hong Kong and to other markets in Asia.'
The Breeders' Cup, launched in 1984, has grown to become the number one thoroughbred event in North America and the 2007 event will grow to 11 races and US$23 million in purses, eclipsing Dubai World Cup meeting (US$21 million) as the richest day of racing on the planet.
The Breeders' Cup is usually staged on the last weekend of October, and rotates around the major racecourses of the US and Canada. This year's event will be staged at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, on October 26 and 27.