Sprint is fast becoming victim of HK's success

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 December, 2009, 12:00am

Dual Group One-winning British sprinter Borderlescott was never a significant factor in the Hong Kong Sprint, but his trainer's comment afterwards was significant.

Robin Bastiman was quoted in the UK Racing Post with this: 'They are just different class here. Borderlescott is quick at home but he couldn't lay up with them. It's unbelievable. I think we will stick to England and Ireland in future.'

On a list of things the Jockey Club did not want to hear, that would be pretty high up.

On the plus side, American sprinter California Flag ran particularly well. On the minus side, the best team of sprinters from Australia didn't make a dent - yes, there were various reasons for it, but the black and white is they got nothing and don't think for one minute that result isn't going to reverberate back home.

For some years, local horses received a percentage bonus on any stake money they earned against the foreigners on international day. Once they became competitive, that became expensive and the idea was binned by the club.

One wag suggested on Sunday the club might have to offer similar bonuses to any sprinter from offshore now to ensure continued participation. (Of course, the corollary is that local bonuses would need to be reintroduced for the Vase.)

Even that wouldn't work to ensure future foreign interest in the Sprint. Sunday's race was the eighth since the Sprint became an international Group One event in 2002. Prize money is paid for the first six, but almost 90 per cent goes to the first three placegetters.

And in those eight runnings, 34 of the possible 48 prize-money cheques have stayed in Hong Kong, including all eight for the winner, seven for second and five for third. That's just four overseas horses up for a share of that 90 per cent of the spoils and only 14 in eight years which got anything at all.

Sooner or later, the sporting nature of the trip for the visitors gets a slap from reality and Bastiman won't be the only one thinking staying home makes more sense.

The last time the club became aware interest in the Sprint was endangered, the distance was changed to 1,200m from a straight 1,000m.

Nothing has changed at 1,200m. Yes, Hong Kong horses ran 1-2-3-4 in the Mile, too, but they don't do it every year like the sprinters.

The attractiveness of the Hong Kong Sprint to foreign runners is getting that Japan Cup, too-hard-to-beat-the-locals look about it - and the answer is . . . well, what is it?