Million-dollar question: will Chairman's Sprint make the Global Sprint Challenge more appealing?
Officials hope more Hong Kong racing stars will be lured abroad to chase rich addition to speed series
Officials hope the addition of the Group One Chairman’s Sprint Prize to the Global Sprint Challenge, announced on Tuesday, will encourage more Hong Kong connections to chase the rich but elusive series bonus.
The Global Sprint Challenge, a 10-race series, offers a US$1 million bonus to any horse that can win three series races in three different jurisdictions in a calendar year – a task yet to be completed despite some champion sprinters clinching two of the three legs.
Having already been elevated to international Group One status after the discontinuation of Singapore’s KrisFlyer Sprint last year, the Chairman’s Sprint Prize now also fills that race’s void as the Global Sprint Challenge fourth leg.
The Hong Kong Sprint was already part of the series, but Global Sprint Challenge committee chairman Leigh Jordon said having a leg at Sha Tin earlier in the year may make it more likely for a locally trained sprinter to chase the riches on offer – something many have been reluctant to push for in the past.
“You have to win at least two away from home, and if a horse can win the Chairman’s Sprint Prize, there are plenty of options – you could go to England, or Japan and Australia on the way back,” he said. “I agree that it does fit in well and hopefully from that perspective it might just inspire someone to have a crack.”
The Chairman’s Sprint Prize, the third leg of Hong Kong’s Speed Series, is worth HK$10 million and has been won by a host of standout performers, including Silent Witness, Sacred Kingdom and recent two-time winner Lucky Nine.
“The Chairman’s Sprint Prize is a great fit for the series. We hope the revamp will entice more owners and trainers to go after the bonus. We feel we have every major sprint in the world in the series now, we don’t want to put too many races in – it’s about having the best and we think we have all the bases covered. ”
“The Global Sprint Challenge has been going for more than 10 years now and we would really like to see someone win the US$1 million, of which US$250,000 goes to the trainer – it would give the series a real kick along. “
Jockey Club director of racing Bill Nader said a scheduling change to shift the Chairman’s Sprint Prize to May 1 could provide a better fit for both international and domestic horses: “We shifted the race in order to bridge the gap in GSC events between the Dubai Golden Shaheen and Takamatsunomiya Kinen at the end of March and the King’s Stand in June”
Paul O’Sullivan’s Aerovelocity won two legs of the series in 2015 – the Takamatsunomiya Kinen at Chukyo in March and the KrisFlyer in May, and could have clinched the bonus. But after connections spurned other opportunities, plans to stay at home for a one-off shot at the bonus in last month’s Hong Kong Sprint were derailed when he suffered a heart irregularity and was spelled.