Purchase of late chairman Alan Li will carry HK colours Hong Kong will have only one horse to represent the host city in the HK$14 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase, and how appropriate that it should race in the colours of the late Alan Li Fook-sum. Li, who died in his sleep during the Christmas-New Year break in 2003, became a steward of the club in 1987, when the International Races had already begun but were little more than a lucrative curiosity for second-tier horses, with international Group One winners not allowed. Li was a visionary, a widely-loved man who wore his passion for thoroughbred racing proudly on his sleeve. It was he, along with his newly-appointed executive director of racing Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges, who in 1998 created the blueprint for what the International Races has now become. If you ever doubted the long-range vision of the great man, consider these quotes, published in the South China Morning Post in 2001. 'Our prizemoney has lifted to world standard and our races have lifted with it,' Li told colleague Alan Aitken. 'It has been our policy to be competitive on prizemoney and we must continue to do so. It is something we must constantly reassess because even though we have improved our own racing, we still have a long way to go to be able to say we are on par with Australia or the United States or Europe. 'Our best horses might be capable at international standard but our overall standard can improve greatly yet. If that means putting more money into these races then that will be done. Eventually, I hope that the Hong Kong Sprint will have international Group One status and we will have four races of that standard on the one day - truly the turf world turf championships. 'But I think that the international meeting has progressed in another way - the whole week is now a great racing event. A week of festivities, racing, the sale, the Jockeys' Challenge, gala dinners.' Yes, Alan Li was a visionary, and he would be suitably impressed at the quality of the 'world turf championships' to be staged this afternoon. But Li also lived for his role as a racehorse owner. Saturn was the 13th horse raced by Li and was a horse personally selected by him at the back end of 2003. He did not live to see him win in the formative Derby Trial race in early 2004. Li's previous 12 horses won a total of 42 races, with his best performer being Gilgit, whose 11 local wins were achieved over a three-year period from 1981-84. But as good as he was, Gilgit often had to answer to the champion of that era, Co-Tack, and also had to play second fiddle (as an odds-on favourite) behind Football in the 1982 Hong Kong Derby. This week, Li's elder son Dominic, a successful bloodstock agent, reflected on the achievements of his late father and the zeal with which he led the Jockey Club through this important stage of its development. 'Dad loved racing, especially international racing, but he particularly wanted Hong Kong to be competitive on the world stage,' Li said. 'He was instrumental in creating an environment that stimulated local owners to go out and buy a better class of horse that could compete at these big meetings. 'He got a tremendous thrill to see Fairy King Prawn win Yasuda Kinen in 2000 [the first Group One win by a Hong Kong-trained horse on foreign soil] and he loved the results that Hong Kong achieved in the last two years that he was alive, winning three races in 2003 and then two more in 2003, a few weeks before his death.' Saturn is listed as the rank outsider by overseas bookmaking firms but Dominic suggests the gelding's chances are significantly brighter that those odds suggests. 'I think Caspar [Fownes] has the horse going very well and the jockey Danny Nikolic is getting along very well with him too. I thought he ran a tremendous race for second to Hello Pretty in the Cup Trial and we don't have any doubt about him at the trip [2,400m]. 'He ran in last year's Vase and was only 21/2 lengths from the second horse, but they were all well beaten by Ouija Board. I can't honestly say that we expect to beat Ouija Board but we hope we can run a place. I know if we can, Dad would be very proud.'