Visiting entrants may lift global appeal of Mile
The HK$12 million BMW Champions Mile comes to a fork in the road at Sha Tin today which could be vital in lifting its appeal for the rest of the world in the future.
Since the race went international in 2005, a total of 15 visitors have turned up to contest the race with only Dao Dao (third to Sight Winner in 2009) able to finish in the first four placings.
The race has been totally dominated by local milers and its ongoing appeal for the foreign raiders may hinge on good performances from a stronger than usual contingent of visitors today in Royal Bench, Musir and Presvis.
While Musir is here for the first time, Presvis is already a QE II Cup winner at Sha Tin and Royal Bench ran a fabulous race to finish second to Beauty Flash in the Hong Kong Mile in December.
'I don't think it's quite the same scenario as the Hong Kong Sprint in December, when it wasn't a bad thing for the race for the visitors to be very competitive after years of local domination,' the Jockey Club's executive director of racing, Bill Nader (pictured), said yesterday.
'And I don't think a visiting horse necessarily has to win the race for the sake of the event's attractiveness but it is important that people feel that they can turn up and be competitive and I am sure that is what we are going to get this time. Even though various factors have contributed to us getting only three overseas starters in the finish, they are three of the best visiting horses to come for the race. I would even go so far as to say they are the best we've had.'
Nader said that the Champions Mile does occupy a difficult place in the calendar to attract foreign runners.
'Mostly the European horses aren't ready to come here at this stage of their season and horses from Australia are tied up with their racing carnival in Sydney which finished on Saturday,' he said. 'So it is always going to be hard to get quantity but hopefully we can keep getting a few horses, both for the Champions Mile and for the QE II, which have been racing in Dubai.
'But we have to remember this is still a fairly new international race and what is encouraging is that we did have a lot more genuine interest in it this year and that has to be seen as a positive even if several of those horses targeted for it didn't end up getting here. That's just horse racing and it's going to happen.'
As the winner of the second leg of the Asian Mile Challenge, the Dubai Duty Free, Presvis will be shooting for more than the prize money today as the winner of two legs of the series gets a US$100,000 luxury car for his owner and the overall winner of the series gets the trainer the same bonus.
With double points for two 'away' wins, Presvis would have that title sealed up if he won this afternoon.
Win, lose or draw, there is a possibility that French-trained Royal Bench could become a permanent part of the Hong Kong scene after today.
Connections refused a reported HK$10 million offer for the horse in December but negotiations are believed to be ongoing over the horse's purchase for a considerably higher price.