Breeders' Cup boss out to woo Mile winner
Three months ago, Greg Avioli might have been satisfied with merely linking a Hong Kong Group One race to America's Breeders' Cup programme, but not any more. Now the president of Breeders' Cup Limited is committed to having Sunday's Champions Mile hero taking on the world's best in the US in late October.
Avioli is in Hong Kong for the big Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup meeting on Sunday, which boasts the HK$8 million Champions Mile as the other highlight.
The Jockey Club and the Breeders' Cup announced in February that the Champions Mile winner would be invited to compete in the US$2 million Netjets Breeders' Cup Mile on turf at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, New Jersey, on October 27.
What started as a lively conversation between Avioli and the Jockey Club's international racing manager, Mark Player, at the Asian Racing Conference in Dubai in January took about five weeks to become a reality.
And here we are, two days out from the Champions Mile and Avioli is thrilled to see not only a high-quality field for this third leg of the Asian Mile Challenge, but so many horses prepared by trainers who believe in the international agenda.
'That's what it's all about,' Avioli said yesterday. 'We don't just want the association with your big race on Sunday. We really want to get the winner of the race to compete against our best and Europe's best in the Breeders' Cup Mile.'
Avioli will be delighted to hear that trainers of so many of the main chances on Sunday are already looking his way.
Andreas Schutz, trainer of 2004 World Racing Series hero Epalo, has already had preliminary discussions with Good Ba Ba's owner, John Yuen Se-kit, about the overseas options that await them in the event of success on Sunday.
'I realise we must take it one step at a time, but if we happen to win the Champions Mile then the Breeders' Cup Mile is definitely something we'll consider,' Schutz said.
Tony Cruz has already gone on record as saying he and the Chan family, who own Floral Pegasus, are thinking the same way. Cruz, of course, is a two-time international race winner with champions Silent Witness and Bullish Luck.
The Champions Mile is expected to be the only Breeders' Cup qualifying race staged outside America this year, though the programme is expected to expand to between eight and 10 premier international races in 2008.
Hong Kong's commitment to wagering on the Breeders' Cup events is also 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 Avioli.
'We can look forward to marketing the Breeders' Cup World Championships to the enthusiastic racing fans in Hong Kong in particular, 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 showcase will grow to 11 races and US$23 million in purses, spread over two days. The Breeders' Cup is usually staged on the last weekend of October, and rotates around many of the major racecourses of the United States and Canada.
The other aspect of the new Jockey Club-Breeders' Cup partnership is that there will be a US$1 million bonus available to the Breeders' Cup Mile winner if he can also take out the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile in December.