The invitees for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International races will be announced this afternoon and it will be another story of the price one pays for being too successful. The development of the CXHKIR has been a model of excellence because the Hong Kong Jockey Club has used the stimulus of international competition to raise the domestic quality bar to unprecedented heights, though some argue at the expense of its core wagering product. Once upon a time, domestic winners were a dream result. When Ronald Arculli's River Verdon won the 1991 Hong Kong Cup, it was a cause for joyous celebration, as was Motivation for trainer John Moore in 1993. Hong Kong then went winnerless in its richest race until Precision took the big event in a 64-1 upset in 2002. But slowly, rare international wins became more common and the trickle has become a flood. Suddenly, it has become more difficult to attract international visitors and Hong Kong will have record domestic representation in 2005 as a result. December 15, 2002 was Hong Kong's finest moment as All Thrills Too won the Sprint, Olympic Express and Electronic Unicorn produced a Hong Kong Mile quinella and Precision made it three international races on the day. That sequence has not abated. Hong Kong-trained horses have now won nine of the last 16 internationals at Sha Tin - make that nine of the last 13 at 2,000m or less, since we seem to have conceded the Vase (2,400m) as an annual donation to the Europeans. Our sprinters have become the world benchmark, thanks to Silent Witness. He's won the last two Hong Kong Sprints and Cape Of Good Hope was third in 2003 and second last year. The European sprinters have been bashed, and it's no surprise that they haven't queued up for a third round next month, especially after the Witness proved just as lethal on foreign soil at Nakayama. How ironic they will stay away in droves, and suddenly his participation is in doubt because of ill health. In the Mile, locals have won two of the last three, but Hong Kong has also provided the past six runners-up, and third and fourth as well last year. Japan's Eishin Preston took the sole springtime international, the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, from Hong Kong's Elegant Fashion in 2003, but Hong Kong has retained that trophy for the last two years with River Dancer and Vengeance Of Rain. Now Vengeance Of Rain can become the World Racing Championship winner if he maintains his unbeaten record over the Sha Tin 2,000m in the Hong Kong Cup. The Japan Cup experienced a similar evolution. In the early 1980s, Japanese stayers were 'easybeats' but the dream of winning against the world's best drove a domestic improvement programme that has never ended. On Sunday, the Japan Racing Association hosts the latest edition of the world's richest race on turf with just six internationals - a reflection of the fact that beating the top Japanese horses on their soil has become a herculean task. Mark Player (pictured), the Jockey Club's manager for international racing development, gained an unwelcome setback to his HKIR cause when two of Australia's best, Grand Armee and Elvstroem, failed against Vengeance Of Rain in the QE II. Now there will not be a visitor from Australia or New Zealand on Sunday fortnight. And, next March, the Dubai Racing Club has upped the ante with its turf programme - the Dubai Duty Free (1,777m) and the Sheema Classic (2,400m) are now worth US$5 million ($38.8 million), representing serious competition for our Sprint ($10 million), Vase and Mile ($14 million) and Cup ($18 million). Many, it seems, are missing Hong Kong and waiting for Dubai.