Hong Kong’s three major spring Group Ones will form a second flagship programme on the calendar in 2017-18 with the Champions Mile and Chairman’s Sprint Prize to join the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup on April 29 for a HK$58 million triple feature.
The three big events all received prizemoney upgrades this season, with the QE II Cup going to HK$24 million, and the Champions Mile and Chairman’s Sprint raised to HK$18 million and HK$16 million respectively.
Although the races have been run in close proximity to one another for some years, the three have never been on the same day before and will give Hong Kong another day along the lines of the Longines Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) in December.
“This adjustment to the schedule unifies these three world-class features under the banner of the Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup race meeting, so creating Hong Kong’s own spring festival,” Jockey Club executive director of racing business and operations Tony Kelly said.
“These moves will create one of the most lucrative days of racing in Asia and offers overseas connections a single date at which to target their horses. Obviously, we are delighted that Audemars Piguet have supported the creation of an additional world class day of racing in Hong Kong across a range of distances.”
In some recent editions of the different Group Ones, small fields and few foreign visiting horses have detracted from the running of one of the contests and the move to having more races on a single day had been mooted earlier this year.
There had been an argument that adding more prestige events to the day named for the Jockey Club’s oldest partner could potentially dilute the Audemars Piguet sponsorship but the Champions Mile and Chairman’s Sprint will remain unsponsored and the Swiss brand retains the day as its own.
The Jockey Club hopes that staging the three races together now will provide a larger target, for both trainers and owners and also the world’s media.
“We believe that expanding the day will enhance coverage from the press and lift interest from the racing public in Hong Kong and across the world,” Kelly said. “It’s an excellent slot in the calendar, coming after Dubai and Sydney and before some major events in Japan and Europe. Concentrating the features into one week rather than having them spread across two weeks also gives us some advantages in highlighting and promoting the race meeting.”
The switch of the Champions Mile and Chairman’s Sprint Prize back from the first weekend of May also removes a date clash with the English 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas events.
All the new race day requires to mirror HKIR is a 2,400m feature, however, the Group Three Queen Mother Memorial Cup over that distance, which was originally programmed for April 29, will now move back a week to May 6, still serving as the designated lead-up to the Group One Champions & Chater Cup three weeks later.
In other news, Joao Moreira has been booked to get back together with Sheidel, his Group One Oakleigh Plate winner earlier this year, when she runs in Moir Stakes at Moonee Valley on September 29, but Zac Purton’s planned trip to ride in Sydney this weekend has fallen over as he no longer has a Group One mount on the day.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong racing stewards have disqualified the John Size-trained Nashashuk as the winner of the Ninepin Group Handicap at Happy Valley last June due to the club analysts’ finding of prohibited substances etofenamate and flufenamic acid in the horse’s post-race urine sample.
Stewards have determined that the substances were present in Nashashuk due to contamination by the stables assistant looking after him, who had used a human medication containing those substances.
Fox Sunter has been declared the race winner with other placings also amended after the disqualification of Nashashuk, no action has been taken against Size and a report has been made to stables management regarding the stable assistant’s role in the positive test.