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Racing Highlights 2010/11

A sensational Season Finale

More than 62,000 racing fans flocked to Sha Tin to enjoy a thrilling 11-race programme on 10 July as well as witness the season’s much-anticipated Champion Awards. The day’s turnover reached HK$1,373 million – the highest finale figure since the 2000/01 season, pushing the total season turnover above HK$80 billion, again the highest for ten years.

Highlight of the afternoon was the final showdown between John Moore and Tony Cruz for the Champion Trainer title. The excitement continued right up to the final moments when Moore clinched four winners to surpass Cruz by two for the season, regaining the title for the first time since 1994/95. As jubilant as Moore was the “Durban Demon” Douglas Whyte, who claimed the Champion Jockey title for the 11th consecutive year. He was also voted Most Popular Jockey for the sixth time with 103,913 convincing votes. Having completed only his second season in Hong Kong, Vincent Ho was named Champion Apprentice Jockey with 39 wins.

Four-year-old Ambitious Dragon, boasting three Group Ones, was crowned Horse of the Year as well as claiming the titles of Champion Middle-Distance Horse and Most Improved Horse. His feat of equalling the local record of seven victories in a season also won him strong public support to be voted Most Popular Horse.

Beauty Flash, who also notched up three Group Ones, had to be content with the Champion Miler title while veteran sprinter Sacred Kingdom was named Champion Sprinter for the fourth consecutive year. This year’s Champion Stayer title went to Mighty High who won the classic long-distance Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup over 2,400m. Bear Hero, who won all his three races this season, was named Champion Griffin while London China Town was the 2009 Hong Kong International Sale Bonus winner.

During the season, young guns like Ambitious Dragon, Beauty Flash, Lucky Nine and Xtension have emerged to seize the baton from older champions like Viva Pataca and Good Ba Ba, both of whom have been retired at the end of this season. These two all-time greats were honoured with Lifetime Achievement Awards. At the same memorable occasion, trainer Alex Y O Wong also retired from racing after a 25-year training career in Hong Kong.

With 15 simulcast racedays each season, the Club brought in additional top overseas races enhanced by the introduction of comprehensive form guides, track analysis with comments, jockeys’ and trainers’ rankings, race insights provided by a star team of overseas experts and tipsters’ selections. The popularity of these races was reflected in the turnover of HK$1,357 million for 99 races, compared with HK$850 million for 80 races last season. To further enhance racing fans’ interest in tracing the performances of runners in these overseas races, the Club introduced a Most Admired Overseas Horse of the Year award. The inaugural winner was Singapore champion sprinter Rocket Man, receiving an amazing 75,522 votes.

Rising stars on song

At the final Music Rocks the Valley party on 6 July, a special song named Rising Star was performed by a popular band to pay tribute to the new young stars of Hong Kong racing for their exciting performances over the season. This neatly complemented a “My Rising Stars” poll organized by the Club between September and March, enabling fans to follow the latest news of these up-and-coming horses more closely and express their support for them through voting. The initiative proved hugely popular, with the Club receiving more than 400,000 votes after three rounds of voting and Lucky Nine eventually being named the fans’ favourite. The My Rising Stars campaign was also given its own website, a special series of themed merchandise, a dedicated cheering team and even a tailor-made iPhone App to add to the fans’ enjoyment.

Wednesdays have never been so Happy

More than 160 years after horse racing first began at Happy Valley, this iconic city centre racecourse has become not just a favourite sporting venue, but also an increasingly popular lifestyle venue for the young professional set. This reputation was further enhanced during 2010/11 season with a series of special promotions on midweek racenights under the “Happy Wednesday @ HVRC” theme. They ranged from a celebration of Oktoberfest, one of the world’s biggest beer festival, to Wines in the Valley which paired fine wines with great sport, an Easter Paradise complete with bunny ears, some classic French ambience for two J’aime Happy Wednesdays, and last but not least three rollicking live music nights in the Music Rocks the Valley series. Together these events, all embracing a festive atmosphere created by the “Racing Specialists”, have made Happy Valley Racecourse the island’s most happening entertainment hotspot.

Reunification Raceday

One of t he most reassuring agreements to come out of the negotiations leading up to Hong Kong’s reunification with China was the pledge that “the racing will continue”. Indeed, it was widely recognised that horse racing had contributed hugely to local development and become an icon for Hong Kong’s unique lifestyle. On 1 July, the Jockey Club commemorated the 14th anniversary of the Hong Kong SAR with the first Hong Kong Reunification Raceday at Sha Tin Racecourse. Over 200 guests from the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government and Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the HKSAR, t he HKSAR Government, the city’s 18 District Councils and community groups joined racegoers to celebrate the occasion. The meeting featured three cup races: the inaugural Hong Kong Reunification Cup, The 18 Districts Cup – held for the fourth year to salute the achievements of District Councils and community organisations – and the Federation of Hong Kong Guangdong Community Organisations Cup.

HK mare doles out royal treat

Hong Kong-trained sprinters have already carved out a fearsome reputation in international competition, but new ground was broken for the fairer sex in mid-June when Tony Millard-trained Sweet Sanette finished a gallant third in the International Group One King’s Stand Stakes, one of the premier races of Britain’s famous Royal Ascot week. Indeed, third place hardly did Sweet Sanette justice as the five year-old mare broke clear with just over 200m to go but found herself unaccustomed to the uphill finish, allowing home hope Prohibit and Australian visitor Star Witness to peg her back.

Salute to Members and racing titan

If not for the support of Members and their willingness to invest in top quality horses and race them overseas, Hong Kong might not have been able to reach the top echelon of the world racing fraternity. As a token of appreciation, the Club staged its sixth annual Members’ Day at Sha Tin Racecourse on 26 June, presenting Members with a series of exclusive offers along with the thrills of the Members Cup, won by Eagle Regiment. Adding fanfare to the occasion was a special ceremony for fans to bid farewell to retiring racing hero Viva Pataca, the highest stakes winner in Hong Kong racing history and – among his many other achievements – dual winner of the International Group One Audemars Piguet QE II Cup and three-time winner of the HK Group One Champions & Chater Cup.

High fives in Triple Crown series

When Beauty Flash fended off stiff competition to win the Stewards’ Cup, first leg of the Triple Crown, in January, the stage was set for five-year-old rising stars to make a clean sweep of this most challenging series. A month later California Memory, another young gun trained by Tony Cruz, clinched the second leg, the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup, making his first attempt in a Hong Kong Group One race. Likewise scoring his first local Group One success was John Moore-trained Mighty High, who prevailed in the stamina-testing 2,400m of the final leg, the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, in late May.

Irian roars in Lion City

While South Africa’s Gitano Hernando might have stolen the limelight in the Singapore Airlines International Cup on 22 May, he had to fend off a brave run from Hong Kong’s Irian who eventually dead-heated for third, just 1½ lengths behind. Another Hong Kong challenger, California Memory finished 8th. In the other big event of the Lion City’s premier international race night, the KrisFlyer International Sprint, home favourite Rocket Man had lost out to Hong Kong horses for both the last two years, but it was not to be this time. The in-form Singapore speedster romped home by a stunning 4¾ lengths, leaving his previous conquerors Sacred Kingdom and Green Birdie languishing in 6th and 7th places respectively.

Local young guns win by a mile – and a bit more

The world-class quality of Hong Kong young thoroughbreds was demonstrated once again in the two spring internationals, when both races saw home-trained horses comfortably shake off the challenges of some blue-chip overseas entrants. In the 2,000m International Group One Audemars Piguet QE II Cup on 1 May, fast-rising four-year-old Ambitious Dragon led home four other local horses to fill the top five places. Six days earlier, Darren Beadman-ridden Xtension braved challenges from the likes of 2011 Dubai Duty Free winner Presvis and 2010 UAE Derby winner Musir to clinch the BMW Champions Mile, third leg of the Asian Mile Challenge. The elite German car manufacture BMW has entered a three-year agreement with the Club to sponsor the Champions Mile from 2011, providing huge synergy for the two globally-respected brands.

Golden icing on Hong Kong racing

The strength in depth of Hong Kong’s sprint team drew further international attention when John Moore-trained Sunny King and Caspar Fownes-trained Green Birdie snatched third and fourth places respectively in the International Group One Dubai Golden Shaheen in March – one of the key races at the Dubai World Cup meeting, the world’s richest, on 26 March. There was another seal of approval for Hong Kong racing when Presvis, winner of the 2009 Audemars Piguet QE II Cup, triumphed under Ryan Moore in the US$5 million Inter national Group One Dubai Duty Free.

Top speedsters at Loggerheads

Sacred Kingdom made a sweeping comeback as he cruised home in style to win the Kent & Curwen Centenary Sprint Cup – first leg of the Hong Kong Speed Series – for the second consecutive year. Runner-up Dim Sum, however, was not to be denied the limelight as three weeks later, he fended off the champion sprinter to win the second leg of the series, the Chairman’s Sprint Prize. And while both runners missed out on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup race in March, the elegant finish produced by Beauty Flash ensured that the final leg of the series left racing fans plenty to remember.

Young guns breathe fire in prestigious series

Once again, the Mercedes-Benz Classic series lived up to its reputation of being a spectacular showcase for up-andcoming champions. A rating of 122 had already signaled that Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine was a force to be reckoned with in the January’s Hong Kong Classic Mile, so his demolition of a top-quality field only reaffirmed his rising star status. But Ambitious Dragon begged to differ, as just one month later, Tony Millard’s latest star beat Lucky Nine decisively to lay claim to the Hong Kong Classic Cup. The former Class 4 runner then followed up this success with the star prize of the Hong Kong Derby – the world’s third richest Derby race. A day earlier, the 2011 Hong Kong International Sale attracted a sparkling response from Owners, with the 20 lots setting a new record average price of HK$4.71 million. The record single lot price of HK$7.5 million was also matched by a son of O’Reilly. Executive Director of Racing William A Nader was quick to point out, though, that what really matters is how these horses will contribute to the world-class standards of Hong Kong racing

Blitzing dirt run earns Group One call-up

While Hong Kong’s top turf horses have time and again outshone overseas challengers in international races, it’s not often that major successes have been achieved on dirt. But that all changed in early February when Ricky Yiu-trained Dynamic Blitz truly blitzed the field to win the 1,200m UAE Group Three Al Shindagha Sprint on the Tapeta track at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, setting a new record time into the bargain and earning himself a place in the Group One Dubai Golden Shaheen in March.

Hopping and Sunny start to Year of The Rabbit

With the sun shining brightly and a Triple Trio payout worth up to HK$50 million on offer, there was little wonder the turnstiles at Sha Tin Racecourse kept busy at the Chinese New Year Race Meeting on 5 February. In total the Club recorded a 96,000 attendance for this perennially popular start to the New Year, with betting turnover reaching HK$1,261 million, a figure not bettered since 2001. Appropriately for the weather, it was Sunny King that took the Chinese New Year Cup feature race under the guidance of Gérald Mossé, while compatriot Olivier Doleuze won the day’s other big race, the Chairman’s Sprint Prize on Dim Sum. Racing fans also had plenty more to keep them excited during the afternoon, with an array of colourful oncourse attractions and performances on offer.

HK horses go from strength to strength

A record 19 Hong Kong-trained horses galloped their way into the 2010 World Thoroughbred Rankings published by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities in January. Among the 15 countries and regions to have horses included in the rankings, Hong Kong ranked sixth, behind only the USA, Great Britain, Australia, France and Japan – an achievement to fill HK racing fans with pride, given the city’s relatively small horse population. Among the local contingent, Sacred Kingdom topped the list with 121 points, the fourth year in a row he has been rated above 120, followed closely by Able One and Collection at 120 points. Fellow sprinters Green Birdie and Joy And Fun, both on 118 points, and Ultra Fantasy on 115, also earned places in the rankings following their overseas successes in Singapore, Dubai and Japan respectively.

How International would you like it?

Winning horses from South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Great Britain, spanning three different continents. Winning jockeys adding France and Italy to the list. And racing fans and media descending on Sha Tin Racecourse from every corner of the globe.

Never have the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races been so truly international as they were for the 2010 edition on 12 December, putting it beyond doubt that this great festival has now cemented its standing in the sport as the Turf World Championships of Racing. In total this time there were 28 overseas horses from ten different countries, 16 of them having previously won at International Group One level. Add to that six more top-flight winners from the home contingent, along with leading jockeys from eight different jurisdictions, and there could be little doubt that an incredible day’s racing lay in store.

Never mind that Hong Kong only managed to claim one of the four International Races for the first time since 2005 – that simply underlined the strength and depth of this year’s foreign invaders.

“It’s good for our Hong Kong racing brand and demonstrates our ‘can-do’ spirit,” said a happy Club Chief Executive Officer Winfried Engelbrecht- Bresges at the end of a breathtaking day. “It’s good for the Hong Kong brand, too.”

Norwasthe excitement confined to Sha Tin’s lush turf. There was a carnival atmosphere throughout the racecourse with entertainment from the Tianjin Acrobatic Troupe, Ban’s Gig Drums , Cantopop singer Mag Lam and acclaimed illusionist Louis Yan, not to mention free “Cheer-for-HK” caps designed by actor Jim Chim, racing tips from the professionals at the Tipster Forum, and over 40 special dishes on offer at the International Food Village. And to bring it all to a memorable close, as always, a spectacular pyrotechnics show.

Small wonder that the International Races drew a total attendance of 54,000 and turnover for the 10-race card reached HK$1,057 million – the highest for this event in eight years.

Four days earlier, over 16,000 racegoers packed Happy Valley Racecourse to witness another feast of great racing in the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys’ Championship. In a nail-biting finish, top English jockey Ryan Moore emerged as the night’s winner, riding Fearless to victory in the final leg to see off home favourite Douglas Whyte, having earlier won the opening leg on Something Special. In 2009 Moore shared a three-way tie for the Championship Trophy; this time it was all his own.

On the Friday night, hundreds of overseas racing connections and media guests enjoyed further entertainment and splendid Hong Kong hospitality at the traditional CXHKIR Gala Party, held for the first time this year at Hullett House in the 1881 Heritage complex at Tsim Sha Tsui, converted from the historic former Marine Police Headquarters Building.

Truly a week to remember!

No great race meeting is complete without representation from Godolphin, and the “Boys in Blue” made their presence felt early in the 2010 International Races when Mastery, trained in the UAE by Saeed bin Suroor and superbly ridden by Italy’s Frankie Dettori, routed all opposition in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase. The ever-popular Dettori had the 2009 St. Leger winner perfectly poised just off the pace and when he pressed the button, there was never much likelihood that Mastery would be beaten. British challenger Redwood tried valiantly to give chase but had to settle for second, while France’s Melbourne Cup winner Americain claimed third place.

Home-trained horses have made the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint their own for the past eight years, but there was no more deserving winner this time than South African champion J J The Jet Plane, who prevailed in an epic three-way battle between arguably the three fastest horses on the planet. Following a short head behind was Singapore champion Rocket Man, with Hong Kong’s Sacred Kingdom – winner of two of the previous three Sprints – a further three-quarters of a length back. Ridden by Piere Strydom and trained by Michael “Lucky” Houdalakis, J J The Jet Plane was enjoying his third consecutive International Group One success.

When home favourite Able One was sensationally withdrawn lame at the starting gate of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile, many racegoers thought hopes of a local victory had gone with him – but they’d reckoned without the determination of Beauty Flash and his jockey Gérald Mossé. After breaking free in the straight from a dawdling pace set by Sight Winner, the Tony Cruz trained chestnut gelding set a finishing pace that no other contender could match. French challenger Royal Bench ran on well from far back to get within three-quarters of a length at the line, while his compatriot Sahpresa was another half length behind in third.

Even normally taciturn jockey Ryan Moore could hardly stop singing the praises of three-year-old English filly Snow Fairy after she showed an astonishing turn of foot to take the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup for trainer Ed Dunlop. “She’s a machine really,” he commented. “She did what we thought she could, and she surpassed it.” Until halfway up the straight it had seemed that Brett Prebble and Irian would take the Cup for Hong Kong, but the English Oaks winner’s stunning acceleration proved decisive and she caught Irian less than 50m from home to win by a neck. Hong Kong veteran Packing Winner ran another terrific race in defeat to finish third.

Youth talent showcased at Arts and Fun Day

One week before the International Races, the Club staged its first CXHKIR Arts & Fun Day on 5 December to herald this annual sporting extravaganza. The fair showcased the artistic talents of young people in portraying an “International Race Day” theme, while giving local residents a taste of the big raceday’s exhilarating experience. As International Volunteer Day fell on the same date, the Club’s CARE@hkjc Volunteer Team also took the opportunity to invite 500 members of CARE supported community groups to the fair. The visitors immersed themselves in the fun of visual and performing arts and were particularly impressed by popular attractions like a four-foot high “Jockey Molly” figure and some unique works of art created from old horseshoes by the Club’s farriers.

Elevating the Racing Experience

Hong Kong’s growing stature in international racing was further illustrated by the upgrading of the three Cathay Pacific International Trials to International Group Two status in October and the impressive form shown by local horses during the renamed events the following month. A week after John Moore-trained Irian bagged the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Cup, another of his horses Able One landed the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Mile with equal flair. Big-race specialist Moore then completed his hat trick when One World delighted racing fans by taking Singapore speed champion Rocket Man to a dead heat in the Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Sprint.

Mossé stops a nation

In what has been billed “the race that stops a nation”, Hong Kong’s senior overseas rider Gérald Mossé stunned the crowd at Flemington Racecourse on 2 November as he steered French challenger Americain past the post to win the 150th running of Australia’s richest and most famous race – the Emirates Melbourne Cup. It added further prestigious silverware to Mossé’s already brimming trophy cabinet.

An afternoon of pure Fantasy

Hong Kong’s got talent! When Ricky Yiu-trained Ultra Fantasy, ridden by youthful jockey AlexLai, defied adverse weather to land victory in Japan’s premier sprint event, the Group One Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama Racecourse on 3 October, it represented much more than the city’s fourth major overseas sprint victory in 18 months. It marked the first time that the feat has been achieved by an all-Hong Kong team, underlining the depth of homegrown racing talent Hong Kong now possesses. And while it was a less successful afternoon for fellow local runner Green Birdie, the race favourite, his flying second place in the Group Two Centaur Stakes at Hanshin Racecourse three weeks earlier meant both horses returned from Japan as Hong Kong heroes.

Slated for Glamour

If it’s October, it’s time for Hong Kong’s chic and beautiful to celebrate at the city’s most glamorous raceday of the year, the Sa Sa Ladies’ Purse Day. For the sixth running of the race under Sa Sa sponsorship on 17 October, racegoers were dazzled by the free door gift of a Sparkling Horse Brooch designed by model Gaile Lai and a fairytale array of oncourse activities. Equally dazzling was the performance of jockey Brett Prebble in fending off strong challenges from Irian and Blue Sky to bag the coveted Ladies’ Purse on Vaugirard. And another reason to celebrate was the news that Sa Sa International have pledged to sponsor this eagerly-awaited racing gala for a further five years.

Star-studded races herald National Day

Racing fans at the ever-popular National Day race meeting at Sha Tin on 1 October were treated not only to a spectacular cultural show that got the day off to a rousing start, but also to the thrill of two Group races on the track. The first of the two, the Sha Tin Sprint Trophy, was especially poignant as veteran Sacred Kingdom – the world’s finest sprinter of the last three years – made a perfect comeback to defeat top filly Sweet Sanette, only six months after coming close to death when he suffered colic just before boarding a plane to Japan for the Takamatsunomiya Kinen. And the other top race proved no less exciting with the new generation showing their potential this time, as three year-old Lucky Nine stormed past top-rated rival Able One to claim the National Day Cup.

New season off to Lucky start

With all tickets to a fun-filled Pre-Season Carnival on 28 August snapped up in a flash by the public, and a large crowd of racing fans lining up for snapshots with their favourite jockeys and trainers at the “Good Start” Roadshow and Racing Heroes Autograph Session three days later, it was a clear sign that the new racing season was as eagerly awaited as always. And so it proved when over 48,000 racegoers turned out to witness HKSAR Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen striking the ceremonial gong at Sha Tin Racecourse on 5 September to mark the official opening of the 2010/11 season. The adrenaline built up over the summer duly erupted as Caspar Fownes-trained Lucky Nine, ridden by Brett Prebble, put in a superb finish in the feature race, the HKSAR Chief Executive’s Cup, to stave off last year’s winner Nightlign. Fans were also able to enjoy the benefits of a newly-extended Diamond Vision screen at Sha Tin, and an enhanced Club website offering more convenient online betting services.

Testimony to Club’s equine sport backing

What do apprentice jockey Derek Leung and the Club’s Junior Equestrian Team member Jasmine Lai have in common? Both are beneficiaries of the Club’s long-time support for local sports development, and both joined the ranks of elite Hong Kong athletes after stellar performances in Singapore. Leung beat nine other top Asian apprentices at Kranji Racecourse in July to be crowned champion of the Asian Young Guns Challenge 2010, then a month later Lai collected a silver medal in the equestrian team jumping event of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, adding further strength to Hong Kong’s standing as the Equine Capital.

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