A record LONGINES Hong Kong International Races crowd of 85,552, nine percent up on 12 months ago, turned out at Sha Tin Racecourse today (Sunday, 13 December) for the HK$83 million showpiece and the world’s year-end racing spectacular did not disappoint, producing four stunning victory performances in the day’s Group 1 features.
“Today we have seen the highest ever attendance at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races,” said Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer. “We have invested significantly in facilities to create this wonderful theatre for dream performances, and we are seeing that our racing fans are embracing this.”
In the day’s showcase races, Japan’s crack miler Maurice scored a sensational victory against local star Able Friend in the HK$23 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, and another Japanese raider, A Shin Hikari, blazed a trail to a breathtaking success in the feature, the HK$25 million LONGINES Hong Kong Cup. Ireland notched its first win at the event in 11 years thanks to the three-year-old Galileo colt, Highland Reel, in the HK$16.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase, and Hong Kong’s Peniaphobia hit the board for the home team with a blitzing run from the front in the HK$18.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint.
“Going into today’s meeting it looked like it was going to be the best ever HKIR and it proved to be – it certainly was tremendous,” said Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges. “The distribution of wins, with an Irish horse, two Japanese horses and a Hong Kong horse winning, shows the global appeal of this occasion.”
Of the 53 runners that went to post for the four feature contests, 29 were already international Group 1 winners (compared with a previous record 22 G1 winners). Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges pointed to the continuing support of the world’s leading horsemen as being key to the occasion’s success.
“In the Vase we had Aidan O’Brien’s first win in the race and it’s great to have the world’s top trainers not only supporting this event but also being successful,” he said.
“We saw some amazing performances today: Moreira was amazing on Peniaphobia, how he overcame the wide gate; we had an outstanding performance from Maurice, who is now a global superstar at a mile; and the performance of A Shin Hikari was brilliant. We have enjoyed a marvellous race meeting with a great atmosphere and that is possible because we have the support of the big owners and breeders around the world.”
Turnover for the day was HK$1.449 billion across the card’s 10 races.
“Our turnover was down by just more than one percent on last year but it is still the second highest turnover in the history of the event, so from a financial point of view we are very satisfied,” said the CEO.
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges thanked those in attendance and applauded the efforts of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s staff: “The team here at the Hong Kong Jockey Club has worked really hard to put on this event and it is extremely gratifying for all of us to see such a successful outcome. We have positioned the Hong Kong International Races as one of the top international racing events in the world; we have made it the greatest show on turf.”
Mr. William A. Nader, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director of Racing said: “Today is a true celebration of international sport at its finest and when you wake up on a day like today, you know you’re going to see something special. I think when you look at the growth of this day, if you go back to 2005, the total attendance was only 44,000 and today we have 85,500. The mass appeal in Hong Kong and globally, and this occasion’s rise up to become world racing’s culminating event each year, is not only a spectacular success for the Hong Kong Jockey Club but also the sport at large.”