HK attracts world's rich and powerful

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 November, 2010, 12:00am

More than two decades have passed since the relatively obscure beginnings of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races (CXHKIR) but the list of the world's most influential and powerful owners which accompanied the announcement of this year's invited runners yesterday is proof the meeting has at last found its place in the top echelon of global race meetings.

Even as the 'turf world championships' grew exponentionally in stature over the past 15 years, Jockey Club officials were wary of calling the mission accomplished without being sure that the biggest and most successful owners and trainers in the world had Hong Kong in December on their radar as second nature.

That must surely have been achieved now, with the 25 individual Group One winners over the four races on December 12 this year having collectively won 47 international Group One races and the ownership list sprinkled liberally with names like Godolphin, Wildenstein, Yoshida, Rothschild, Khalid Abdullah, Bertram Firestone, Michael Tabor and the Aga Khan, among others.

'We are thrilled that so many of the world's finest racehorses and their connections have been drawn to Hong Kong for the international races,' said Jockey Club director of racing Bill Nader. 'The numbers and the sheer class of the overseas horses will be an exciting challenge for our very strong home contingent and the strength in depth of the invited runners entries shows once again why the CXHKIR is the pre-eminent sporting occasion in Hong Kong.'

The meeting lacks a standout name visitor in the style of Fantastic Light or Falbrav, both of whom confirmed their status as the world's champion galloper of their year in winning at CXHKIR, but the world's highest-rated sprinter, Sacred Kingdom, will be there among 10 horses rated 120 or above internationally.

Though, while the big owner-breeders appear to have embraced the meeting, which will feature HK$64 million in prize money over the four feature events, diversity of origin wasn't the overwhelming property of yesterday's announced invitees.

A score line on last year's international day of France two wins, Hong Kong two, has been reflected in the invitations for 2010, with 35 of the 56 horses named yesterday representing one jurisdiction or the other.

Australia has just the one runner, sprinting mare Ortensia, while the Japanese runners which have been a staple of the CXHKIR in the past will number just two this time. A Shin Forward, the surprise winner of last weekend's Kyoto Mile Championship was a supplementary entry for the Hong Kong Mile on Monday, and Jaguar Mail, the Tenno Sho winner earlier this year, will be making his third successive run at the Vase.

Another mountain left to climb before hoisting the mission accomplished banner is the participation of horses from the United States, with Winchester (Vase) the only one this year, although the Jockey Club was desperately unfortunate to lose top American sprinter Kinsale King and his compatriot, the Cup entry Battle Of Hastings, to injury in just the past two days.

Only Singapore sprinter Rocket Man and the French-trained Melbourne Cup winner Americain have already arrived at Sha Tin's quarantine centre, with the remaining 30 visitors to begin arriving next week.