Ryan Moore and James McDonald headline a mix of superstar riders from around the globe assembled for the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) at Happy Valley on December 8.
The Jockey Club confirmed the line-up for the HK$800,000 event on Thursday, with Mickael Barzalona, Yuga Kawada, Damian Lane and British racing’s glamour couple Hollie Doyle and Tom Marquand also jetting into Hong Kong for the contest.
Lyle Hewitson, who is already in the city and will officially join the local ranks next week, will represent South Africa having collected last season’s title in his home country, while reigning Hong Kong champion Joao Moreira and last year’s IJC winner Zac Purton have also secured their spots.
Two slots are still up for grabs, with Alexis Badel (17 wins) and Karis Teetan (15 wins) fighting for the position as the next-highest ranked jockey in Hong Kong while Vincent Ho Chak-yiu (14) and Matthew Chadwick (12) are going head-to-head for the berth reserved for the leading home-grown rider.
Englishman Moore, who will be competing in the IJC for the 15th time, is having another stellar season, sitting atop the World’s Best Jockey standings, while New Zealander McDonald is currently in third after winning the Melbourne Cup.
Barzalona is leading the French standings with 172 winners, Kawada comes in with plenty of confidence having won a Breeders’ Cup race with star Japanese mare Loves Only You earlier this month and Lane will fly the flag for Australia for the first time.
Marquand and Doyle will take part in the event for the second time after the latter won one of the legs last year.
All those coming from abroad will do so via private jets provided by the Jockey Club and will be part of a “racing bubble” – restricting them to their accommodation and the racetrack once they arrive – to ensure there is no public health risk.
All visitors must be fully vaccinated and provide negative Covid-19 tests while they will also occupy a separate jockeys’ room away from the Hong Kong-based competitors.
After examples of riders being dealt incredibly strong or weak hands, the Jockey Club introduced a new system last year to ensure a fairer contest and it will be in action again after positive reviews.
The prize money for the four races has been increased by 20 per cent in an attempt to attract a stronger group of entries, with the handicappers to give preference to horses with better form, while the minimum riding weight has been increased to 116 pounds.
The club’s Jockey Challenge oddsmakers will then assess their hopes before riders are allocated, with each jockey then given four mounts based on an estimated average of each horse’s chances.
It is a points-based competition with the winner of each race earning 12 points, six given for second and four for third. The jockey with the most points at the end takes home the HK$500,000 first prize, while second gets HK$200,000 and third collects HK$100,000.
“We are delighted to have assembled an outstanding cast of riders and we are looking forward to a great night of sport set against the backdrop of one of the most iconic racecourses in the world,” Jockey Club executive director of racing Andrew Harding said.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to stage the event and will be meticulous in our implementation of the HKIR 2021 racing bubble that underpins this.”