Hong Kong back on top of rich-list stakes as brand is reinforced
Jockey Club boosts prize money for international day and its spring features to remain a global force and combat growing competition
The Longines Hong Kong Mile and Sprint in December have returned to the top of world racing's rich lists in a package adding another HK$19 million in stakes to existing internationals while Sha Tin will host four more international majors next season.
The Jockey Club has added HK$11 million to international day across the four events, with the Hong Kong Cup now HK$25 million, the Mile HK$23 million, the Sprint HK$18.5 million and the Vase HK$16.5 million.
Those increases return the Mile and Sprint to the world's richest races in their category, edging back above the Doncaster and T J Smith Stakes in Sydney based on yesterday's exchange rates. The Hong Kong Cup is the second richest 2,000m race on turf behind Sydney's Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
The spring internationals have also received raises, with the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup up a hefty HK$6 million to a HK$20 million purse and the Champions Mile goes up HK$2 million to HK$14 million.
Following last month's announcement of a 7 per cent rise in domestic stake money, the Jockey Club has now taken the increase for next season to an all-time high HK$90 million and a total of HK$990 million, in recognition of a vintage season and growing competition.
"The international landscape has become much more competitive - there have been prize money increases announced in Dubai, Australia, the UK and Ireland recently," said executive director of racing Bill Nader.
"We are just about to close what we believe has been the finest season in Hong Kong racing history, in all aspects of the sport, so the time is right to act and ensure we don't lose our place in the global scene.
"The additional prize money offerings, as well as the elevation of our four most prestigious domestic Group One races to international Group One status, fit the club's strategy and direction."
As well, four more elite events - the Stewards' Cup, Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup, Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup and the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup - have been upgraded to HK$10 million each in prize money after being elevated to international Group One status. "That change was approved by the Asian Pattern Committee in May, as each of those races annually exceeds the required ratings parameters," Nader said.
"Even as domestic races, the Stewards' Cup, Queen's Silver Jubilee and Gold Cup are regularly amongst the highest rating events in the world and we would expect those three to quickly join our other six internationals on the list of the world's Top 50 races. The Champions & Chater rates a little below them but still enough to carry an international classification."
While the extra four international Group One races will be a prestige-builder and are now open to visiting horses, it remains to be seen whether any visitors arrive. "In Australia, the United States, Japan, there are many Group One races which are internationals but rarely contested by foreign horses," Nader said.
"There's no shame in that. They are going to be there for those who want to come.
"The difference is that we won't aggressively target visitors like we do with the other internationals and we have yet to decide on the level of travel allowances or other incentives we might offer, if any.
It might be tough to attract visitors but it might suit somebody - the Queen's Silver Jubilee will become one of the very few 1,400m races in that category. That's a special distance, so it might get some interest."