The Jockey Club is increasing prize money by HK$80 million virtually across the board next season as it tries to attract better horses and riders to Hong Kong and maintain its standing as one of the world’s leading racing jurisdictions.
There will be a total of HK$1.3 billion in prize money up for grabs in 2019-20, an increase of 6.5 per cent on 2018-19, with most races being boosted.
The three Group Ones on FWD Champions Day were given a lift – the Champions Mile (HK$20 million) and Chairman’s Sprint Prize (HK$18 million) going up HK$2 million each, while the QE II Cup is now worth HK$25 million (up by HK$1 million). The BMW Hong Kong Derby is now worth HK$20 million after a HK$2 million raise.
While those features were targeted, so have the rank-and-file contests that make up most of the programme.
Class One races are up 6.7 per cent to HK$2.8 million, Class Twos are now worth HK$2.1 million (an increase of 7.7 per cent), Class Threes up HK$70,000 to HK$1.45 million (5.1 per cent), Class Fours are valued at HK$967,000 (up $47,000 or 5.1 per cent) and Class Fives run for HK$725,000 (5.1 per cent or HK$35,000).
The four Longines Hong Kong International Races remain at the same levels, as do Hong Kong’s Group Two and Group Three contests after being boosted 12 months ago.
Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges is adamant Hong Kong cannot rest on its laurels as competition around the globe increases – for both talented horses and top-class jockeys.
“There is a clear vision from of the club and stewards that world-class racing is what we want to do and that’s why we have significant prize money increases. We need significant prize money increases,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
“The price for horses has significantly increased worldwide and the problem is the ownership [dynamics] have changed. You have more syndicates, who don’t want to sell the horses, and some of the top horses are owned by a small group of people who have plenty of money.
“So for us the search for talent is very difficult, which is why we want to create an incentive structure for our owners.
“Attracting the right jockeys is a challenge, too. There are not too many world-class jockeys – if you look 10 or 15 years back, there are fewer now. A lot of them are on retainerships, then you have a change in the environment in Dubai where they ask their jockeys to stay all the time.
“You have someone like Ryan Moore who has to ride all over the world, so therefore our slot where we can attract certain jockeys is [smaller].
“We see that we have a significant increase in competition and therefore an increase in prize money is attractive.”
Jockeys receive 10 per cent of the purse for a winner and a 5 per cent cut for the minor prizes, meaning the overall increases will have an immediate impact.
For owners, the High Achievement Bonus scheme was boosted again, with the overall bonus now worth HK$1.5 million (up 30 per cent).
The initial bonus of HK$1 million is awarded when a horse rated 80 or higher wins in Class Two for the first time (before the age of five). The top-up bonus (up from HK$300,000 to HK$500,000) rewards any horse that is victorious in Class One or above before turning five.
That is designed to provide owners with an additional incentive to bring top-class horses.
Hong Kong now boasts the two most lucrative Group One open-age turf sprints in the world, the two mile races with the biggest purses as well as the richest 2,000m turf contest.