The Hong Kong Jockey Club staged the inaugural International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley racecourse in December 1998 as a lead-up to the Hong Kong International Races.
That first incarnation saw 14 of the world’s best jockeys compete around the Valley and among them were greats such as Pat Eddery, Mick Kinane and Cash Asmussen. None proved a match for the man of the moment though as Olivier Peslier, fresh from a third consecutive victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe that October, won the first two contests of the three-race challenge. Peslier would win again in 2006.
After the IJC’s initial success, it was decided to hold the event annually. The second edition went to Frankie Dettori, who held Peslier and Kieren Fallon in a tight contest that went to the wire. Dettori became the first jockey to claim the IJC twice when triumphant in 2001, the year that the field sizes were reduced to 12 participants to match the maximum number of horses in each race, and the Italian made it three wins in 2011.
In the meantime, Australian great Damien Oliver was successful in 2003, while both Germany’s Andrasch Starke and Hong Kong’s perennial champion Douglas Whyte emerged as multiple winners. Starke prevailed in 2000 and 2005, while Whyte took the spoils in 2002 and 2007, and typical of the South African’s career, became the first triple winner and the first back-to-back winner when successful in 2008.
The championship reached its seventh edition before a dead-heat was called. Christophe Soumillon and Yutaka Take were the jockeys that shared the spoils in 2004. The Japanese icon took the first leg with the Belgian ace third, and after both finished unplaced in the second race, the first leg outcome was reversed in the final leg to ensure a tie.
A three-way dead-heat for first place occurred in 2009 as Christophe Lemaire, Ryan Moore and Johnny Murtagh each won one race apiece and were all otherwise unplaced. Following that outcome, the format changed for the 2010 renewal when Moore won outright and the IJC has since been a four-race competition.
LONGINES stepped in to sponsor the IJC in 2012 and Singapore sensation Joao Moreira ensured a thrilling finale. Moreira, Hong Kong-based hero Zac Purton and British ace Moore all had one win each going into the final leg. It looked like Purton might nick it outright when his mount hit the front close home but Moreira flashed wide and late to snatch the race, the IJC crown and the HK$500,000 first prize by a nose at the wire.
Last year’s IJC was a highly competitive affair, as five participating jockeys were still in contention coming to the final race. It was Australian representative Kerrin McEvoy who clinched his first IJC title, thanks to a win aboard Home With Glory and a runner-up finish atop Expectator. Hong Kong’s Zac Purton had to settle for the runner-up position for the second consecutive year.
*International Jockeys' Championship - Past Results