World's best riders gather for Longines International Jockeys' Championship
The Hong Kong International Races each December is one of the headline acts on the annual global racing calendar, with four international Group 1 races - and HK$83 million of prizemoney - up for grabs.
Sunday's meeting at Sha Tin will be attended by around 75,000 people, as well as attracting worldwide attention, to watch some of the best horses on the planet compete for the Hong Kong riches. Wednesday's meeting at Happy Valley, however, will showcase another fantastic initiative of the Hong Kong Jockey Club when it hosts the Longines International Jockeys' Championship, an outstanding prelude to Sunday's main event.
The International Jockeys Championship sees 12 of the world's top riders representing eight countries in a four-race championship, with a prize of HK$500,000 going to the winner. The jockeys' rides in each of the designated four races are allocated randomly, exactly the same as the barrier draw for those horses competing.
A jockey gets 12 points for winning, six for running second and four points for finishing third. This makes it imperative to have at least two good chances, and historically the magic number has been 24 points, which means winning at least one leg is essential.
This is arguably the most star-studded line up ever to compete for the International Jockeys' Championship, which is a good indication of the event's prestige. The field consists of four Hong Kong based jockeys (one of those has to be a local rider) and eight other hoops from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, America, Great Britain, Japan and France.
Reigning World's Best Jockey, and a 65-time Group 1 winner, Ryan Moore will represent the UK along with 2015 British flat racing Champion Jockey Silvestre De Sousa.
Victor Espinoza, the jockey for American Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup Classic winner American Pharaoh, will ride for the USA.
Hugh Bowman, three-time Sydney champion jockey, 2015 Cox Plate winner and the winner of 47 Group 1 races in total, will represent Australia.
Godolphin's number 1 Australian rider and 2013/14 Sydney champion jockey James McDonald will represent his native New Zealand.
Star French jockey Maxime Guyon, who is the rider of the world's best miler Solow, will represent France, while Gavin Lerena and Keita Toaski, the reigning champion jockeys of South Africa and Japan respectively, will represent their nations.
Hong Kong will have four representatives, those being top local rider Derek Leung, Melbourne Cup winning jockey Brett Prebble, 13-time HK Champion Jockey Douglas Whyte, and of course, the 'Magic Man' Joao Moreira who has just smashed the record for the fastest 50 winners ever in Hong Kong.
Without doubt, the Longines IJC is one of the greatest, most competitive and intense jockeys' championships in world racing. As with every race in Hong Kong, you very much need to be on the right horse to win, but at Happy Valley in particular, drawing a good barrier is of particular importance too.
Joao Moreira comes up favourite to win the challenge at $4.40 at Sportsbet, and Brett Prebble ($5.50) is very confident in his own chances, but Hugh Bowman ($5.00) also has a strong hand and he's our top pick. The Australian rides Vara Pearl, Dragon Harmony, Ambitious King and Club Life and if he manages to win aboard one of those four, he has a good chance of winning the whole thing.
A couple at longer odds in the jockeys' challenge are Gavin Lerena ($9.00) and Victor Espinoza ($19.00) at Sportsbet. Both have a reasonable book of rides and you shouldn't be shocked if a horse wins at big odds in one leg of the challenge for one of these jockeys.
It really is amazing to have so many of the world's best jockeys all competing against each other in the one place. I highly recommend tuning in to watch what will be a fantastic spectacle of racing ahead of Sunday's huge international meeting
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