THE CATHAY PACIFIC Hong Kong Jockey Club International Races are one of the world's premier racing events. Held each year in December, they attract top-class jockeys, trainers and horses from around the world. Massive crowds gather at the Sha Tin racecourse, while a billion racing fans from the four corners of the Earth follow the event on television. This year the races will be complemented by a series of activities and parties, held at the racecourse and around town, giving the event the look and feel of a festival or carnival. The traditional barrier draw, gala party and international sale will be held in the run-up to big day. The day itself will feature a variety of entertainment, including acrobatics, street entertainers and fireworks. 'The original idea was to add a programme of entertainment so visitors could enjoy the races and additional activities,' said Daniel Cheong, manager of marketing communications, Hong Kong Jockey Club. It was also thought appropriate to use the event to celebrate the fact that three Olympic equestrian events - dressage, show jumping and evening jumping - will be held in the city as part of the Beijing Summer Olympics. 'For over 100 years, horse racing has provided Hong Kong people with a unique form of sporting entertainment that has become deeply ingrained into our culture,' said Maisie Koo, head of corporate marketing, Hong Kong Jockey Club. 'As Hong Kong gears up for the Olympic equestrian events in 2008, we look forward to fostering a deeper understanding and enjoyment of horses and horse racing by hosting the 20th running of the races - the world turf championships - and the first International Racing Festival.' The Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races, which are the final leg of the World Racing Championships, will comprise four international Group 1 events over different distances. The races take place next Sunday at the Sha Tin racecourse. The day will begin with a variety show and an opening ceremony. Footage of the World Equestrian Championship will be shown on the big screen and the award-winning Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupe will perform. The Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupe, founded in 1959, is one of the world's largest teams of its kind, and one of China's most respected troupes. It integrates the traditional Chinese acrobatic art with modern dance, artistic gymnastics, drama, fashion, and computer stage effects. The troupe has won more than 80 prizes and titles at competitions and events at home and abroad. Several big productions have gone on tour. The Guangdong Story has been performed in Germany, France, Portugal, and Thailand, while The Five Elements was well received in Australia. Glory of the Forbidden City attracted audiences of thousands when it was performed in Hong Kong. Next on the programme will be Canto-pop stars Eason Chan Yik-shun and Joyce Lee Lok-si, who will sing the national anthem and a selection of their hit songs, backed by the Hong Kong Police Band. Circus performances will follow, from 12.20pm to 4.15pm, on the concourse. The circus will comprise eight shows, each running 20 minutes. The circus acts include jugglers, acrobats and contortionists. The closing ceremony will take place after race nine. A march past by the Hong Kong Police Band and a first-of-its-kind fireworks show will bring the festivities to a close. Other activities include an exhibition tracing the history of the Hong Kong International Races and a 2008 Equestrian Olympic Games Exhibition along the Avenue of Racing Stars, showcasing Beijing and Hong Kong as Olympic cities. Five festive game stalls will be set up on the concourse, where ticket combo holders can vie for fabulous prizes. The races will be screened live on a giant TV wall. A bazaar with souvenirs for sale will be set up on the concourse and clowns, jugglers, unicyclists and stilt walkers will keep the crowds entertained with their antics throughout the day.