Records fell, new benchmarks were set and heroes were lauded at Sha Tin Racecourse today, on an exemplary day of sport at the annual HK$83 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.
“This was one of the most astonishing days of international racing we have seen in Hong Kong,” said Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Chief Executive Officer.
A vibrant and vocal crowd of 100,710 turned out to savour the four Group 1 races at the end-of-year showcase, generating an electric atmosphere. That figure was a new high for the event and 17.4% up on the previous year. Turnover for the 10-race card came in at HK$1.518 billion.
“It’s the highest turnover ever for this day, and an increase of 4.7% on last year,” Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges said. “But the attendance was even more pleasing, with a record for the day of more than 100,000 people, combining Sha Tin and Happy Valley. The atmosphere on course was outstanding.
“The reaction from our customers and racing fans was exceptional today,” Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges added. And in the current era of internationalisation, the CEO was pleased to see commingling return a record for the day at HK$72.8 million.
“Our commingling figure was an increase of more than 40% on last year, with a figure of over HK$72 million, which accounts for 4.8% of the day’s total turnover. This shows again that we think our strategy of world class racing, including beaming the races around the world, giving customers the opportunity to bet into the largest per-race tote pools in the world, is the right strategy.
“To give some context, 10 years ago, this meeting had turnover of just HK$930 million and a crowd of 56,000. Our commitment to excellence and to promoting the international element of the sport has clearly been well-received by our customers, both here in Hong Kong and around the world.”
A total of 53 horses competed in the four LONGINES HKIR contests this year, 26 from overseas, and a total of 23 G1 winners.
Japan’s champion trainer Noriyuki Hori became the first overseas handler to notch a double in one day at the LONGINES HKIR thanks to Satono Crown (Hong Kong Vase) and the brilliant Maurice (Hong Kong Cup), the first horse to win the Mile and then follow-up in the Cup since the races took on Group 1 status.
“The performances of the horses on the track today were world class,” Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges said. “If you look at Maurice in the Cup, it was a world champion’s performance.
“I’d especially like to thank all owners, trainers and jockeys who have come here and made this such a great day of sport – and I’d especially like to thank our friends from Japan, particularly the Yoshida family who brought their superstar, Maurice, here to Hong Kong for his career-crowning performance before he goes to stud.
“I feel a little bit guilty for Highland Reel in the Vase, travelling more than 100,000km during the year, but he ran a fantastic race and was beaten by a very good horse in Satono Crown,” the CEO continued.
“Some people were skeptical about the chances of the Hong Kong horses before the races but they showed the ‘can do’ spirit of Hong Kong and they showed, especially with the first four home in both the Sprint and the Mile, that we have world class horses capable of beating top-class international horses.”
Mr. Engelbrecht-Bresges praised the efforts of all involved in staging this year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, which kicked off on Wednesday, 7 December with the LONGINES Hong Kong International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley.
“I’d like to thank the Jockey Club team for putting on such an excellent show,” he said. “It is, we humbly believe, the greatest show on turf and it takes a huge effort and detailed planning from the many people who are involved. And a special thanks to the media – the coverage this year has been outstanding.”
Mr. Anthony Kelly, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing Business and Operations, said: “On Wednesday evening at Happy Valley we had over 29,000 people in attendance, and we had more than HK$1.2 billion in turnover, so between four days in Hong Kong we’ve had 130,000 race goers and HK$2.8 billion in turnover on 19 races, so that speaks for itself.
“It’s been a fabulous week – our sponsor LONGINES has been here this week and it is great to work with them. It was wonderful to see them extend their partnership with us and we look forward to carrying this event further in the future.”
Mr. Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing Authority, said: “We’ve been privileged to see the calibre of jockeys that have competed both on Wednesday and today. If we consider this, we’ve seen the LONGINES/IFHA World’s Best Jockey and numbers two and three in that list, as well as a score of other jockeys that are amongst the best around the world. They’re superb athletes and we’ve been truly privileged to see them.”