A bumper cast has been confirmed for next month’s Longines International Jockeys’ Championship and Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges says there are no plans to move the event away from Happy Valley.
After last Wednesday’s city meeting was cancelled because of concerns about staff members and customers being able to get to and from the track safely, there has been talk that the IJC will be moved to the more isolated Sha Tin.
But Engelbrecht-Bresges has assured fans that the Jockey Club remains determined to hold the marquee event at its traditional home under the city lights on December 4.
“There are rumours we would change from Happy Valley and at the moment we have no plan to change,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
“Last Wednesday, we did not cancel because we saw an issue with Happy Valley, we saw an issue with transport and it was very specific to the area around the Chinese University of Hong Kong. It was an issue regarding logistics with no MTR and no roads open.”
It was announced on Monday that superstar jockeys Ryan Moore, Oisin Murphy and James McDonald will join Frankie Dettori for what shapes as one of the most competitive series in years.
Dettori, who was a top priority for the Jockey Club, confirmed last week that he is on board and Irishman Colin Keane, Japan’s Yuga Kawada and Frenchman Pierre-Charles Boudot are all locked in, while Silvestre de Sousa returns as the reigning IJC champion.
Murphy competes in the series for the first time but as this year’s British champion jockey, he will represent Britain rather than his native Ireland, while Sydney-based New Zealander James McDonald will represent Australia.
Reigning Hong Kong champion jockey Zac Purton headlines the hometown charge, while current premiership leader Joao Moreira and the third-placed Karis Teetan add further lustre to the competition.
The berth for the leading local jockey will be decided after Wednesday night’s Happy Valley meeting but it is all but certain to go to Vincent Ho Chak-yiu, who sits fifth in the premiership with 11 wins.
“This year’s International Jockeys’ Championship has all the factors in place to be a classic edition,” said Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding.
“We are looking forward to a great night of sport at what is not only the richest jockey challenge in the world but also the most spectacular.”
De Sousa took out last year’s IJC in dominant style, winning two of the four legs and placing in the other two to set a record of 34 points, smashing the previous mark of 30 set by Dettori in 2010.
Keane was second in 2018 with 16 points, while Ho showed he belongs among the world’s best by finishing third after winning the third leg aboard the Manfred Man Ka-leung-trained Little Island.
Purton, Moore and Moreira are also former IJC champions and will again be looking to scale the mountain and take home the HK$500,000 winner’s cheque.