Hong Kong will stage 10 International Group 1 races for the first time next season. Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer, revealed during a press briefing at Sha Tin today (2 July) that the Asian Pattern Committee has sanctioned the promotion of four local contests currently classified as Hong Kong Group 1 events. He also announced a 10% rise in total prize money across the upcoming season and significant purse increases for all 10 International G1 races.
Hong Kong has staged six International G1 races since the Champions Mile was raised to that level in 2007. The latest four to achieve the sport’s most elite benchmark are the Stewards’ Cup (1600m), the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m), the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2400m) and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup (1400m). The Asian Pattern Committee reached unanimous agreement on the upgrades at a meeting in May. These races will now be open to overseas horses.
“The Asian Pattern Committee’s ratification of the four new International Group 1 races rewards those contests for their consistently high average ratings over a number of years and confirms the strength of Hong Kong racing at the elite level,” said Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges.
“In the year 2000, the Hong Kong Jockey Club made a strategic decision to elevate the status and standard of Hong Kong racing. The vision was, and remains, very clear - to focus especially on turf races from sprint distances up to 2000m, and to attract the best horses, trainers and jockeys to Hong Kong to create the best racing product in the world. One of the initiatives to achieve the vision is to incentivise owners to invest in bringing the best horses to race here.
“We also looked at our competitiveness in attracting the best horses to Hong Kong’s International races. The competition to attract the best horses to International Group 1 events is now significant,” he continued. “Prize money is increasing at the major events around the world and if Hong Kong wants to be a global leader we have to have prize money that is recognised as world leading.”
The G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m) will now carry a purse of HK$25 million, a rise of HK$3 million, to maintain its status as Hong Kong’s most lucrative prize, while the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile purse has also risen by HK$3 million, to HK$23 million. The G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint (1200m) is now worth HK$18.5 million, a rise of HK$3.5 million, and the value of the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) is now HK$16.5 million, up HK$1.5 million.
Mr William A. Nader, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing, said: “The increases to the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races re-emphasise their status as the Turf World Championships. With this latest purse increase, the LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint is at the moment the richest sprint race anywhere in the world, the Mile is the richest turf mile and the Cup is one of the two most lucrative contests over 2000m on turf.”
The G1 Audemars Piguet QEII Cup will receive the largest purse increase. The spring showcase over 2000m, won this year by Designs On Rome, consistently attracts world-class runners, and in order to maintain the race’s prominent standing in the face of international competition, the Club has raised its prize fund from HK$14 million to HK$20 million. The G1 Champions Mile, Hong Kong’s second spring feature, is now worth HK$14 million after a rise of HK$2 million, reflecting the race’s quality that this year saw South African champion Variety Club win so impressively.
Each of the four promoted International G1 races will be worth HK$10 million, a HK$2 million rise on last season. Three of those, the Stewards’ Cup, the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup and the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, comprise the Hong Kong Triple Crown (all-aged).
“The world has woken up to how strong Hong Kong racing is,” said Mr Nader. “These increases in prize money alongside the increase to 10 International Group 1 races for the season 2014/2015, are a further reflection of how far Hong Kong racing has progressed on a global scale. Not only did Hong Kong-trained horses win four of our six international Group1s last season, we also had two Group 1 victories in Singapore and two in Dubai this year from a horse population of only 1200.
“Five of our six International Group 1s are in the IFHA’s (International Federation of Horseracing Authorities) World’s Top 50 and we could potentially have more in the future because some of those promoted races are very strong already, with ratings comfortably above the benchmark - ratings do not lie.”
Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges and Mr Nader both stressed the significance of Black Type in the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s decision to approach the Asian Pattern Committee. A local HKG1 race winner appears in sales catalogues as being the equivalent of a Listed race winner.
“When you look in a catalogue, our horses are not recognised for their achievements,” said Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges. “The only way to remedy that was to increase them to International Group 1 status and open them up to foreign competition. This can only enhance our position on the world stage as owners and breeders see the value of racing in Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong Pattern comprises 34 Group races. In addition to the 10 International G1s there are now five HKG1 contests: the Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup (1000m) and the Chairman’s Sprint Prize (1200m), each worth HK$6.6 million after a HK$600,000 increase; the Hong Kong Classic Mile, now worth HK$8 million after a HK$2 million rise; the 2000m BMW Hong Kong Derby, up HK$2 million to HK$18 million; and the HK$6 million Hong Kong Classic Cup (1800m).
Hong Kong also stages three International Group 2 races (LONGINES Jockey Club Cup, BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile and BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint) and four HKG2 contests, as well as 12 HKG3 races.
Total prize money next season will rise to HK$990 million, an increase of 10% on the HK$900 million on offer in season 2013/2014, which ends on Sunday, 6 July.