Star-studded line-up for 'turf world championships'
The 2011 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races (CXHKIR) may still be almost two months away, but racing fans will get at least a flavour of what is to come with release yesterday of the star-studded entries.
A total of 311 horses were nominated at the first stage for the four international events on December 11 at Sha Tin, with an auspicious 88 of them already Group One winners.
With the prize money for the Hong Kong Mile increased from HK$16 million to HK$20 million this year, the race will stand jointly with the Hong Kong Cup as the richest event, and stakes for the four races will total HK$68 million.
'The worldwide response to this year's meeting exceeds all expectations and once again illustrates the tremendous interest in what is clearly one of the world's great race days,' Jockey Club executive director of racing Bill Nader said. 'This race meeting has earned its title as the 'turf world championships' and promises the very best that our sport has to offer.'
Fifteen nations from five of the world's seven continents are represented in the list of nominations, including winners of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Cox Plate, Dubai World Cup, Melbourne Cup and Breeders' Cup events, along with the best of Hong Kong's top grade runners.
Japan has provided the most entries, with 66 names across the four races, including the Yasuda Kinen winner, Real Impact, in the Mile and the recent Sprinters Stakes winner Curren Chan, while Canada, South Africa and Hungary each have a single entry.
The Cup has 111 entries, 40 of them Group One winners, the Mile 116 nominations including 30 Group One winners, the Vase sees 38 Group One winners amongst 106 entries and the Sprint has received 92 entries, 15 of them already successful at the elite level.
With a considerable amount of feature racing worldwide in the coming weeks - particularly the Melbourne carnival in Australia and the Breeders' Cup in the United States - before real expressions of serious interest come from connections of the horses entered, most of the big names on the lists will not be here.
However, the Jockey Club is hoping that world champion miler Goldikova, a 14-time Group One winner, will bow out from the sport at Sha Tin.
Connections of the weekend's Champion Stakes winner, Cirrus des Aigles, and last year's Hong Kong Cup winner, Snow Fairy, third in that race, have already indicated they will return to Hong Kong, along with the recent Prix Cadran winner, Kasbah Bliss.
There is a further CXHKIR supplementary entry stage for local horses on Monday, November 21, prior to the announcement of the selected runners.
Around 30 foreign candidates will be invited for the four races, with those selections to be announced prior to racing at Happy Valley on November 23.
The number of Group One winners nominated at the first stage for the four CX Hong Kong International Races from 311 entries