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Racing Highlights 2009/10

Double Helping of Excitement for Season Finale

The addition of five extra racedays this season not only extended the sporting excitement for racing fans into mid-July, but also produced another interesting result – it meant that the final meeting of the season fell at Happy Valley instead of Sha Tin, as has been traditional. No matter, though – what better opportunity could there be to stage two great finales instead of one! 

Adding to the excitement was the closeness of some of the season's Champion Awards, which meant that four of 13 awards went right down to the very final night, including a see-saw battle between perennial champion Douglas Whyte and challenger Brett Prebble for the coveted Champion Jockey title, which captured racing fans' imagination throughout the closing weeks. 

Most of the Champion Awards were presented, as usual, at the final Sha Tin meeting on 11 July, which once again produced a huge public response with 46,000 people flocking to the racecourse and turnover reaching a season high of HK$1.18 billion. As well as a thrilling 11-race programme, racegoers were treated to celebrity game sessions, a spectacular closing show featuring popular entertainers Charlene Choi, Raymond Lam, Joey Yung and Wong Cho-lam, and the traditional jockeys' farewell parade at which they handed out gifts to fans. 

Three wins at Group One level, including the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint, made Sacred Kingdom a popular winner of the Horse of the Year title, to which he added the Champion Sprinter's crown for the third year running and the fans' vote as Most Popular Horse of the Year. Seven-year-old Able One lived up to his name by being named Champion Miler after an outstanding comeback season, while Collection was named Champion Middle-Distance horse and Mr Medici Champion Stayer.  

Entrapment's record-breaking achievement of seven wins in a season, including a very easy success in his final outing in the Juvenile Sprint Trophy, made him a comfortable winner of Champion Griffin, while his trainer John Size had already wrapped up the Champion Trainer's title by the closing Sunday, finishing with 75 wins. 

Douglas Whyte took the fans vote as Most Popular Jockey but had to wait until the final night at Happy Valley to seal the Champion Jockey title with 100 wins, as did Keith Yeung who took the Champion Apprentice Jockey honour with 30. The Most Improved Horse Entrapment and 2008 International Sale Bonus winner Flying Supreme also went to the very final night.   

Racing fans were in party mood as they cheered on the winners, with the Beer Garden offering a buy-one-get-one-free deal all night, and the alluring first prize of an iPad drawing huge interest in a Racing Challenge game. Truly a memorable end to the Club's 125th Anniversary season.

Race Training Certs now carry citywide weight

It was with more pride than ever that Executive Director of Racing and Chairman of the Racing Development Board William A Nader witnessed over 130 Racing Division staff receiving certificates on their successful completion of the Board's training courses on 8 July, as these qualifications now carry citywide recognition in Hong Kong's vocational education system. This follows the official endorsement of six Club training courses by the Hong Kong Council of Academic Accreditation and Vocational Qualifications in June, which sets a new milestone for the Club's racing development programme and underlines its continued efforts to upgrade the overall quality of Hong Kong's workforce. 

ABLE ONE cuts a princely treat

Jockey Darren Beadman made it three top wins in a row for Able One when he guided the John Moore-trained horse to win the Prince Jewellery & Watch Premier Cup at Sha Tin Racecourse on 16 June, providing the luxury jewellery and timepiece retailers with a great start to their new three-year sponsorship of this 1,400-metre Hong Kong Group Three event, which boasts sumptuous prize money of HK$2.30 million. The extravagance continued with racegoers treated to a fashion show of luxury items - and one lucky fan even got to carry off a timepiece valued at HK$100,000. 

New jewels in the crown  

All three races of this year's Triple Crown series saw new names sparkle as the defending champions failed to retain their crowns. In the opening leg, the Stewards' Cup in January, reigning cup holder Good Ba Ba finished third to Fellowship, who gave jockey Zac Purton his first Hong Kong Group One success. A month later, Viva Pataca never managed to get a good run, leaving Derby winner Collection to triumph in the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup. Then in the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup on 30 May, the final leg of the series, heavily-fancied three-time champion Viva Pataca was once again dethroned to third place as Peter Ho-trained Mr Medici overcame a rain-soaked track, storming to his first-ever Hong Kong Group One victory. 

GREEN BIRDIE comes through with flying colours

In 2009, the hopes of Singapore racing fans were dashed when top home sprinter Rocket Man lost out by a neck in the KrisFlyer International Sprint to Hong Kong's Sacred Kingdom, who set a new

1,200m track record for Kranji Racecourse in the process. So this year, with Sacred Kingdom ruled out through injury, it looked like it might be Rocket Man's turn at last. 

For the second year running, though, it was despair for home fans as Hong Kong's Green Birdie, trained by Caspar Fownes and given a superb ride by Mark Du Plessis, mastered the wet conditions to defeat the local champion by an identical margin in this flagship S$1 million International Group One event. 

Green Birdie's performance was all the more remarkable considering that he was plagued by laminitis for some 18 months, and his legs only got back to full strength a few weeks earlier. Another Hong Kong challenger, Happy Zero, did well to come home third under Darren Beadman despite a poor draw, but the last of the visiting trio Joy And Fun, a hero in Dubai six weeks earlier, was never able to get into his stride. 

Moore lands unique double double on record-breaking day

Winning two International Group One races on the same afternoon is an achievement any trainer would be proud to have on his CV; snaring the same double a second time is even more special. But doing it with the very same two horses three years apart must surely be a unique feat in the racing world.  

That, however, is exactly what trainer John Moore achieved at Hong Kong's spring international meeting on 25 April. First his seven year-old gelding Able One, with Darren Beadman in the saddle, showed he has lost none of his trademark finishing speed by holding off in-form

runner Fellowship to take the Champions Mile, reprising his cunning 2007 win under Mick Kinane in this third leg of the Asian Mile Challenge. 

Then less than 40 minutes later it was the turn of eight-year-old Viva Pataca, ridden by Weichong Marwing, who successfully held off South Africa-trained Lizard's Desire and local challenger Super Satin to score an emphatic victory in the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup. 

Huge interest in the two races also made it another billion-dollar turnover day at Sha Tin, where fans were treated to an array of special activities including a catwalk display of fashionable Audemars Piguet watches. Some 3,000 lucky racegoers also got to take home pure gold figurines, ruby pendants or other glittering prizes from the Scratch and Win cards they received on arrival. 

HK successes no mirage in Dubai

On the night of 27 March when Dubai unveiled its stunning new Meydan Racecourse to the international racing community for this year's Dubai World Cup meeting, it was another Asian showcase city

that stole the early honours when Derek Cruz-trained Joy And Fun took the International Group Three Al Quoz Sprint for Hong Kong. Ridden by Brett Doyle, Joy And Fun cut down the front-running Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint champion California Flag at the 200 metre mark and ran on strongly to hold off Godolphin challenger Fravashi. Later the same night One World snatched third place in the International Group One Dubai Golden Shaheen under Darren Beadman, emphasizing that Hong Kong sprinters are now competitive not just at home, but throughout the world. 

SUPER SATIN gains a HK$16 million sheen

The start of a new year is when Hong Kong's latest crop of top four-year-olds get an eagerly-awaited chance to show who's best in the Mercedes-Benz Classic series – and for a while, Tony Cruz-trained Beauty Flash appeared to be the main contender as, with five wins and a second already under his belt, he stormed to an easy, 2¾-length victory under Christophe Soumillon in the opening event, the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Classic Mile on 24 January. But the series has a history of throwing out surprises and so it proved again a month later, when Sean Woods-trained King Dancer stunned an 85,000 Chinese New Year crowd by taking victory under Gérald Mossé in the second leg, the Mercedes Benz Hong Kong Derby Trial, edging out Super Satin by a neck and relegating Beauty Flash to third.

Yet there was still a further twist to come in the main event, the 133rd Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby on 14 March. This time over the longer distance of 2,000 metres it was Super Satin who just got his head in front at the line, seeing off Super Pistachio and Brave Kid to claim final bragging rights and earn top domestic honours for his delighted Owner Ranjan Tikam Mahtani. Amazingly it was a first-ever win in this most prestigious of domestic races for his Champion Jockey Douglas Whyte, who has almost no other gaps in his stellar Hong Kong career, and a first too for his Champion Trainer Caspar Fownes. The euphoria was shared by on-course fans who also had a chance to compete in a Derby Challenge quiz game, hoping to carry off a HK$50,000 prize. 

Stylish double for SACRED KINDOM

There was no doubting who remained king of the sprinters in Hong Kong – or for that matter the world – as newly-recrowned Hong Kong Sprint champion Sacred Kingdom eased home under Brett Prebble

to take the Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup from his Ricky Yiu-trained stablemate Ultra Fantasy on 31 January.  This was the first year the HK$4.50 million race, first leg of the 2010 Hong Kong Speed Series, had been sponsored by the exclusive menswear brand and hardly could there have been a more fitting display of high class and style. Three weeks later, Sacred Kingdom made it 15 wins from 23 starts by adding the second leg, the Chairman's Sprint Prize, to his

checklist, this time seeing off a challenge from the John Moore-trained pair of Sunny King and Happy Zero. But the champion's absence from the third leg, the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup on 14 March, at last give his rivals some breathing space, and this time Happy Zero took the honours after a tremendous battle to the line with Fellowship

Second young scientist award highlights club’s expertise  

The Club's world-leading expertise in doping control research and development received recognition at the 18th International Conference of Racing Analysts and Veterinarians in March when Club Racing Chemist Dr Emmie Ho was honoured with the Young Scientist Award for her two well received presentations on the subject.

ICRAV is the most important biennial conference for the racing industry's drug control analysts and regulatory veterinarians. At this year's event in Queenstown, New Zealand, Dr Ho gave presentations on “Doping Control Analysis of Bromide in Horses” and “Identification of Insulin and its Analogues in Equine Urine and Plasma”, both based on cutting-edge research that was highly relevant to the doping control community.  

The Club's Racing Laboratory is the only facility to have collected this award twice since its inception at the 15th ICRAV in 2004, when the inaugural award for best presentation by an analyst went to Club chemist Gary Leung.

Bond between racing and the community celebrated

The third annual 18 Districts Cup race meeting on 21 February gave some 200 of the Club's community partners a chance to share some frank exchanges as well as an afternoon of top-class sport. Club Chairman Dr John C C Chan pledged to the guests, who included District Council members, sports associations, community organisations and Government departments, that the Club would continue to make concrete contributions to society, in the same way as it had helped propel the city's development over the past 125 years. He called on the community partners to continue supporting the Club's efforts, so as to enhance the livelihoods of all Hong Kong people.

Year of Tiger festivities given an extra stripe

Chinese New Year has long been one of the high spots of the Club's season – but this year, as part of the 125th Anniversary celebrations, the entertainment reached new heights, with an Equine Fun Fest added to the ever popular CNY Raceday and the Club's participation in the International Chinese New Year Night Parade. For the opening event, the Parade on the first night of the Year of the Tiger, popular local jockey Matthew Chadwick and equestrian gold medallist Patrick

Lam waved greetings to the crowd from the Club's glistening golden float while on board, Mainland artist Li Jiahang gave his first live outdoor sand-painting demonstration. In front, racing trainees and young dancers from Club Charities Trust-sponsored SkyHigh Creative Partners in Tin Shui Wai performed the Hong Kong Can Do Exercise.

Two days later, the Lunar New Year Raceday offered all the festivities one could wish for, from a star-studded opening ceremony and spectacular closing parade to the colourful traditions of the Fortune Market. Racing fans were elated by a record-high HK$50 million CNY Triple Trio payout for a single HK$10 winning bet, and there was more excitement when Caspar Fownes-trained Fair Trade, ridden by Brett Prebble, stormed home to win the Chinese New Year Cup. As for the Equine Fun Fest at Penfold Park on the sixth and seventh days of the New Year, the sell-out crowd of 10,000 really spoke for itself. The visitors young and old were able to watch live equestrian performances from Club-sponsored riders, experience racehorse riding through virtual games, view a range of Olympic memorabilia and relive memories of Hong Kong's finest racehorses at the 125th Anniversary Racing Legacy exhibition. 

Kingdom earns another crown

It was true testimony to the quality of Hong Kong's horse racing when top sprinter Sacred Kingdom was rated the world's joint leading sprinter in the 2009 World Thoroughbred Rankings for the period from 1 January to 31 December 2009, the third consecutive year he has won this accolade. Not only was it the seventh year in a row that a Hong Kong racehorse had topped the Turf Sprint category, another home runner Good Ba Ba shared the same rating of 122 in the Mile category and the same overall ranking of 19th in the world.

Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races

Stunning repeat successes by Hong Kong's Good Ba Ba and Sacred Kingdom, which confirmed their standing among the world's elite, brought Hong Kong's International Races week to another memorable conclusion on 13 December. “We've enjoyed a tremendous day's racing, one of the best ever staged here on this great occasion,” reflected Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges after a day that saw 31 top overseas horses from eight other racing jurisdictions take on Hong Kong's finest in four International Group One races, for total purse money of HK$62 million.

Equally effusive in his summing-up was Executive Director of Racing William A Nader who commented that “today's meeting was billed as the greatest show on turf and we believe it lived up to expectations”. More than 56,000 local and visiting racing fans, who packed Sha Tin Racecourse and put over HK$1 billion into the day's betting pools, seemed to think so, too.

There was trackside fun aplenty to accompany the racing as all fans entering Sha Tin Racecourse received a CXHKIR cap specially designed by popular local singer Leo Ku, who also headlined a spectacular opening show with the Shanghai and Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupes. Hello Kitty made a personal appearance as part of a special promotion to mark HK-Japan Tourism Exchange Year. And the Hong Kong Police Band, a parade of inflatable horses and a dazzling pyrotechnic show brought the event to a close, sending everyone home smiling.

To add icing to the sporting cake, Hong Kong's track success came on the same weekend that the SAR's football team scored an equally stunning win in the East Asian Games gold medal match.

Earlier that week on Wednesday, the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys' Championship got International Races Week off to a flying start at Happy Valley and for the first time in the event's history, there was a three-way tie for the title, with France's Christophe Lemaire, Irish champion Johnny Murtagh and British champion Ryan Moore sharing the HK$300,000 prize money after scoring one win each. Much of the crowd's attention, though, was focused on two rising track stars – Hong Kong's Champion Apprentice Jockey Matthew Chadwick and Canadian glamour girl Chantal Sutherland.

At the CXHKIR Gala Party on Friday night, Chinese culture was strongly to the fore, with performances from the Shanghai and Guangzhou Acrobatic Troupes, popular local singer Eliza Chan and distinguished souna player Guo Yazhi. More than 1,000 visiting connections and media from around the world attended the festivities, held once again at historic Murray House in Stanley.

On the Saturday, a handsome New Zealand-bred son of Exceed And Excel fetched top price of HK$5.70 million at the 2009 Hong Kong International Sale, one of 19 lots to be auctioned for a total of HK$70.40 million. The average price of the two-year olds, purchased by the Club at top yearling auctions in Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the United States, was HK$3.70 million, a figure indicating strong long-term confidence from local Owners, despite the still-recovering economy.

VASE: French maintain their grip

France drew first blood in the 2009 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races, and made it three Vase wins in a row, when Gérald Mossé produced an astonishing last-to-first finishing burst on Daryakana to see off Britain's Spanish Moon by a short head. The three-year-old filly – the least experienced runner in this 2,400-metre race – is owned by Aga Khan and trained by Alain de Royer-Dupré. Mossé only picked up the ride after compatriot Christophe Lemaire's suspension and now has six CXHKIR wins to his credit.

SPRINT: Kingdom's top challengers left routed

With one of the world's finest-ever sprint fields assembled at Sha Tin, Hong Kong's seven-year home grip on the Hong Kong Sprint looked as though it might come to an end – but local favourite Sacred Kingdom had other ideas, storming home under Brett Prebble to remind his challengers exactly who was still the world's king of turf sprinting. And to put the icing on the cake, the Ricky Yiu-trained champion was followed home by One World, Joy And Fun and Green Birdie, making it a comprehensive rout for the Hong Kong team.

MILE: Historic treble for Good Ba Ba

Home favourite Good Ba Ba became the first horse in history to win one of the Hong Kong International races three times in a row when he stormed home in a thrilling finish to better young pretender Happy Zero by half a length. It was the biggest career win to date for trainer Derek Cruz.

CUP: Injury can't waylay Vision's mission

The Club's experienced vets can take a share of the credit for French runner Vision D'Etat's storming finish to win the day's richest race, the HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup. Just 24 hours earlier, the four-year-old's participation was in doubt as a skin infection suffered in transit had left him slightly lame. But that seemed hard to believe as Vision D'Etat showed incredible turn of foot to defeat odds-on local favourite Collection by three-quarters of a length. It gave trainer Eric Libaud his second CXHKIR win and jockey Olivier Peslier a record seventh.

Racing excitement in Midland

The name of a leading local realty powerhouse made a welcome return to the track on 6 December when Holi Ravioli, ridden by William Pike and trained by John Size, won the Midland Holdings

Cup. Under a new joint marketing deal that promises more high quality racing experiences for local fans, Midland Holdings will sponsor the raceday for two seasons from 2009/10, with the Midland Holdings Cup running at total prize money of HK$1.75 million. The reunion revives a previously successful series of title sponsorship racedays in seasons 2003/04 and 2004/05.

Locals hold sway in International Trials

The Cathay Pacific International Trials in November were opened up to overseas horses for the first time, but it was the local stars who stole the limelight in the run-up to December's main event. Collection, ridden by Weichong Marwing, started the fanfare by winning the Cup Trial, then seven days later Fellowship under Zac Purton took out the Mile Trial from Sight Winner and defending international champion, Good Ba Ba. The magic continued when Darren Beadman led Happy Zero home by a two-length margin in the Sprint Trial, beating Sacred Kingdom – the world's joint-highest ranked speedster.

The week of the Cup Trial also saw another famous local racing hero, Silent Witness, return to Sha Tin – but this time cast in bronze. The life-sized statue has been erected by the Club in partnership with the former champion sprinter's Owners, the Da Silva family, to pay tribute to his contribution in raising Hong Kong's profile in international racing and promote the ‘can do spirit' he so vividly portrayed – two of the central themes of the Club's 125th Anniversary programme.

Sha Tin shows its different faces

The contrasts of traditional culture and modern-day glamour were on show in equal measure during October, when Sha Tin Racecourse staged two of its most popular autumn events. At the National Day meeting on the opening day of the month, renowned soprano Yao Jianyung first evoked patriotic sentiments, then the Shanxi Mass Drum Troupe and a group of Beijing opera actors captivated the audience with the skill of their performances. On the turf, then apprentice jockey Matthew Chadwick did his fans proud by taking out the National Day Cup on Egyptian Ra for his first Group race success.

Ten days later, rainy weather failed to dampen racing fans' passion for Sa Sa Ladies' Purse Day, when more than 80,000 racegoers were treated to a thrilling duel between Iron Fist and Young Elite in the feature race, the Sa Sa Ladies' Purse, with the former snatching the trophy by a short head. Equally eye-catching were the stunning outfits and flamboyant hatwear worn by many trendsetting racegoers, not to mention the numerous trackside events including “My Glamorous Lady” contests, fashion shows and make-up workshops.  The Felicity Pearl Horse Brooch offered free to each entrant added the perfect touch.

Lions everywhere on Day of Pride

The Parade Ring at Sha Tin Racecourse was a sea of colour on 13 September as not just one lion dance, but an amazing 125 of them performed en masse to welcome back the horse racing at the start of this very special 125th Anniversary season. Hong Kong SAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was also on hand to strike the ceremonial gong, while auspicious attractions arranged to bring luck to the 49,000 oncourse fans included a Golden Tree formation designed by feng shui master James Lee. On the track, honours in the season's first feature race, the HKSAR Chief Executive's Cup, went to Almond Lee-trained Nightlign, ridden by Jeff Lloyd.

Three days later, multiple colours gave way to pure gold as Happy Valley Racecourse staged a Golden Wednesday to welcome its first meeting of the new season. Besides a variety of special gold-themed activities, fans were able to enjoy watching the races on an upgraded Diamond Vision screen, newly extended from 35 to 47 metres wide.

To whet racing fans' appetites in the run-up to the new season, the Club staged a series of roadshows at Off-Course Betting Branches featuring guest trainers and jockeys, and the traditional pre-season carnival at Sha Tin, attended by a sell-out crowd of 8,600 adults and children including over 2,000 Owners and their guests. Carnival visitors were able to enjoy equestrian demonstrations, pony and carriage rides, stable tours, parent-child workshops and inflatable games. The annual jockeys' sprint was won for the second year running by Jacky Tong.

The new season also ushered in an additional

15 simulcast racedays, allowing the Club to bring more international premier races into Hong Kong for the enjoyment of racing fans. To cater for the larger fields commonly found in overseas races, the Club has upgraded its computer system to handle up to 24 runners, thereby enhancing customers' betting experience of overseas races.

Racing Trainee Programme

The Club launched its latest recruitment drive for racing trainees and received more than 1,000 applications, double the figure of the previous two years and the highest since 2006. Some 60 applicants were later selected for interview and then 20 lucky finalists chosen to join the Club's foundation training programme, which includes courses on riding techniques, stable management, horse handling, English and IT.

 

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