Carrot to lure Rocket Man a 'desperate' move
The Hong Kong Jockey Club yesterday chided the Victoria Racing Club in Australia for offering bonuses in a bid to host the first clash between sprint champions Black Caviar and Rocket Man at Flemington in November.
The Jockey Club will instead rely on the current prize money, neutral venue and 'red-carpet experience' offered by the Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) to attract connections of the star sprinters to Sha Tin in December.
Executive director of racing Bill Nader said the Victorian club was 'frustrated and desperate to make an impression' in its decision to offer a A$600,000 (HK$4.92 million) bonus to connections of Rocket Man, making the Singaporean star eligible for a A$1.2 million payday.
The offer, which would double the winning prize money of the Group One Patinack Farm Classic (1,200m) on November 5, is conditional on an international Global Sprint Challenge (GSC) winner claiming the event.
Black Caviar, who is unbeaten in 13 career starts and rated the world's best sprinter, has raced only in Australia and would not qualify for the bonus - a fact that Nader says is not in the spirit of the GSC.
'Being the anchor leg and a responsible partner in the Global Sprint Challenge, offering a bonus to lure GSC winners or targeted horses is not, in our view, in the spirit of the arrangement,' Nader said.
'We would not want to compete in that way at the expense of another series partner. Great horses can only run in so many races and participation in one can be at the exclusion of another.'
There is little doubt the Jockey Club has the financial clout to trump any rival host offer in terms of prize money, but with a Hong Kong Sprint purse already of HK$12 million, Nader sees no reason to play that card over the top of the Victorian club.
The fact that Black Caviar would race for a A$600,000 first prize and Rocket Man for A$1.2 million was also unjust, Nader said.
'In the case of the Patinack Classic, the new bonus offering is an attempt to attract an overseas runner with box-office profile to Australia,' Nader said.
'They have been unable to do this in recent years, hampered by sub-standard prize money and difficult quarantine protocols, so they look at the situation differently than the HKJC.
'The VRC are frustrated and desperate to make an impression. The prize money is now A$1 million, which is a big step in the right direction, but the visiting horses must travel, compete and win to earn the bonus.
'Unlike Australia, we do not have the same problem in attracting horses from overseas to participate in our signature HKIR meeting.
'In addition to our investment of HK$68 million in prize money for our international races in December, we roll out the red carpet for our visitors and it is a first-class experience at a world-class event,' he said.
Meanwhile, French jockey Gerald Mosse will ride stayer Mr Medici for trainer Peter Ho Leung in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2,400 metres) at Sha Tin on Sunday. Mosse qualifies for the ride - and others on Sunday's card - under a rule where overseas jockeys are allowed to ride in principal races in Hong Kong.