The Jockey Club is quite right to beat the drum about the fields attracted for its International Races, with three of the four events demonstrably stronger than past years at this stage. Grandera is the highest-rated horse to come to Hong Kong on 127 and Domedriver the first Breeders' Cup victor, so there are a couple of new benchmarks for future planning and inclusion of runners from Denmark and Macau has given a wider sweep of interest to the meeting. By way of comparison, the highest-rated runners last year on the actual race day were Jim And Tonic and Silvano on 123, and the nearest to a Breeders' Cup winner was Forbidden Apple, who had been runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Mile. And in terms of the average ratings of the races, the overseas invitees in the Hong Kong Mile, Sprint and Vase were all higher than in 2001 at the point of invitation and average rating for all runners in those races was higher this year. With its rise to a Group One, the Sprint rose sharply to average a rating of almost 115 from the overseas invitees and that average fell only to a tick over 114 when the local sprinters were included, outlining the strength in depth of the local challenge. That was a rise of more than 1.5 points from the foreign horses and more than three points overall. Despite suggestions it is not a strong Vase this year, it has a whopping visiting average of almost 118 compared with last year's 114.5. That became 113 and change after including the local runners and, even though it has dropped further with the substitution of Caracoler for Helene Vitality, it is still higher than the full field average of almost 111 a year ago when only the winner Stay Gold had a rating high enough to put him into the top six of this year's field. The Mile rates a one-point higher average than in 2001 at 117 for the invited foreigners, and also a half-point higher than last year when the local runners are counted, at more than 115. So the promise of the turf world championship has to a large extent been met, with a better show due on December 15 than previously. Yet the apparent lack of interest in the showpiece Hong Kong Cup was a disappointment with the higher interest in the other races not transferring to the main event. Perhaps it was merely a cyclical thing, a one-off for 2002 rather than trend of play, but the race could not attract sufficient high-rated overseas entries to fill it out. Whatever the political underplay, surely Royal Treasure would not have been included as a ninth overseas runner had there been a 110-rater somewhere keen to be a part of the race. Maybe the presence of Grandera and the growing perception that the Hong Kong International Races are becoming tough to win frightened away the sort of Group One handicapper-but-no-champion type of horse. Last year the Cup visitors averaged just over 117, even after top-rated Val Royal's withdrawal soon after invitations, and this year's running will be close to 119. The even weaker local challenge this year drags the overall average rating for it down to less than 112 and two points weaker than last year, though, and both the international and overall averages owe a good deal to Grandera's presence.