British superstar Ryan Moore, Japanese icon Yutaka Take, globetrotting Frenchman Christophe Lemaire and Irish young gun Colin Keane will go head-to-head at Happy Valley next month in a star-studded Longines International Jockeys’ Championship.
The Jockey Club confirmed the high-quality list of riders that will assemble for the four-race contest to kick off international week.
The team of eight foreign raiders will also boast Australian Hugh Bowman, three-time champion of Britain Silvestre de Sousa, talented Frenchman Mickael Barzalona and the USA-based Javier Castellano.
Last season’s champion jockey Zac Purton headlines the Hong Kong team and he will be joined by the next two highest-placed riders on the table as well as the leading local, with the cut-off coming after the meeting on November 21.
Karis Teetan is virtually assured of one spot, with Matthew Poon Ming-fai, Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, Douglas Whyte and Chad Schofield set to battle for the final two positions.
Purton is out to defend the IJC title he won last year, but knows it won’t be easy given the riders he will be up against.
“I think it’s probably the strongest jockeys’ competition out of all those around the world,” he said. “It’s certainly the most exciting one, being at Happy Valley under lights as part of international week.”
The riders are not just competing for bragging rights, with the winner taking home HK$500,000, the runner-up collecting HK$200,000 and third getting HK$100,000, on top of prize money won on the night.
Jockeys are allocated rides randomly (within their weight range) across four different races, with the points allocated according to finishing position – first getting 12, second receiving six and third collecting four.
The jockey with the highest accumulated points after the four races is named the winner.
Moore is a two-time IJC champion (2009 and 2010), Lemaire was also part of the tie in 2009, Take won in 2004 and Bowman came out on top in 2016, while Purton pulled off the upset last year.
Funnily enough, it has been 12 years since the two veterans taking part in the IJC – Take, who won his 4,000th Japan Racing Association race in September, and Castellano, who has collected over 5,000 winners, last competed in the event.
The only international who hasn’t ridden in Hong Kong before is Keane, who was the champion jockey in Ireland in 2017.
“The Longines International Jockeys’ Championship is not only the richest jockey challenge in the world but also the most exciting and the most keenly sought,” Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding said.
“Each December, the Hong Kong Jockey Club is able to attract the world’s best riders, who ensure this is a world-class sporting competition.
“We are able to pit established champions against talented rising stars, and it all takes place at Happy Valley, our spectacular floodlit circuit, on a night which is eagerly anticipated.”