Two of Hong Kong's best-known flag-bearers joined forces yesterday as Cathay Pacific Airways became the first full sponsor of the Hong Kong International Races in the most valuable sporting sponsorship in Hong Kong history. Financial details of the three-year arrangement were not made public, though the sponsorship is known to exceed Cathay's commitment to the Rugby Sevens it co-sponsors with Credit Suisse First Boston. No prizemoney increases for the internationals have been announced by the Jockey Club but, even without any lift, the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) will be the third-richest day of horseracing in the world - with $56 million in prizemoney spread across just the four Group One international races on December 12. 'As Hong Kong's own airline I can tell you we are very pleased to be the first title sponsor of the Hong Kong International Races,' said Cathay Pacific director and chief operating officer Philip Chen Nan-lok at yesterday's signing of the agreement. 'We believe Hong Kong companies should get themselves more involved with these types of events and Cathay has already shown a commitment to sporting and cultural sponsorships. 'Why the Hong Kong International Races? Firstly, because horse racing is definitely one of the key representations of Hong Kong life - you just have to look at the public interest in racing and the annual turnout at the HKIR. 'But also because, to us, the HKIR have international appeal - they are the focus of the racing world at that time of year. 'We look forward to bringing not only the runners and riders but also a great number of international visitors to Hong Kong to join the excitement.' The Jockey Club-Cathay Pacific deal includes naming rights through the sponsorship of the club's annual showpiece meeting, as well as the International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley on December 8 and the two International Trial meetings staged during November to assist with selection of the local representatives for the four races. 'All the races will have Cathay's name added to their titles and the overseas horses and people involved in the International Races will all be brought here by Cathay,' said Jockey Club chief executive Lawrence Wong Chi-kong. 'The latter part is nothing new - Cathay was the official airline of the HKIR in 2003, too - but this new agreement expands our relationship. 'I'm sure it's going to be the start of a long and fruitful partnership. The Cathay Pacific HKIR is the biggest week in Hong Kong sport, a week Hong Kong becomes the centre of world racing attention and when over one billion people will watch the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races, and thousands of fans will be flying in.' To acknowledge the contribution of the HKIR to tourism, Clara Chong Ming-wah, executive director of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, spoke at yesterday's signing to lend the support of that body to the sponsorship.