International wagering on Victorian Spring Racing Carnival, Singapore’s Gold Cup, 2016 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship, Sha Tin racing steps up in preparation for LONGINES HKIR, Japan’s Mile Championship

International wagering on Victorian Spring Racing Carnival
Almandin (GER) and Kerrin McEvoy winning the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington, picture
Almandin (GER) and Kerrin McEvoy winning the Group 1 Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington, picture

The internationalisation of racing and wagering continued apace in Victoria over the recent 2016 Spring Racing Carnival with key highlights including Japanese wagering on the Group 1 Melbourne Cup (3200m) for the first time, Hong Kong simulcasting of meetings and Winx’s Group 1 WFA Cox Plate (2040m) win rated the highest current turf performance in the world.

Racing Victoria and the Victoria Racing Club announced that domestic wagering turnover on the 2016 Melbourne Cup Carnival exceeded $600 million for the first time with the turnover of the four Flemington race meetings increasing by 10% to A$657 million.

The Melbourne Cup Carnival was also embraced by international punters, with the Hong Kong Jockey Club generating a record A$62.7 million in turnover, an increase of 3.9% on 2015 despite the number of races wagered on decreasing this year from 18 to 17.

Japanese punters were also permitted to bet on the Melbourne Cup for the first time with A$8.73 million wagered on the race in which the lone Japanese entrant Curren Mirotic (JPN) finished unplaced at long odds.

A total of 37 races were conducted across the Melbourne Cup Carnival with 22 jockeys and 21 trainers successful. There were 511 starters across the four meetings which saw the average field size increase to 13.8 horses per race up from 13.0 in 2015.

“World class racing underpinned by key programming changes, strong field sizes, a terrific racing surface, favourable weather and a great spread of results all contributed to record wagering turnover for the 2016 Melbourne Cup Carnival,” said Bernard Saundry, Racing Victoria Chief Executive.

“The racing throughout the Melbourne Cup Carnival was exceptional with strong international and interstate participation and there was tremendous punter confidence across all four days. Over the past three years domestic wagering turnover on the Melbourne Cup Carnival has grown by almost $100 million,” he said.

The week before at Moonee Valley racecourse the Australian bred, trained, owned and 2016 Australian Horse of the Year Winx became the third highest rated horse in the world and the top rated turf horse and top rated filly/mare in the world on the LONGINES World's Best Racehorse Rankings - the official listing of the world’s best racehorses for three-year-olds and upwards which raced between 1st January and 6th November 2016.

The Street Cry mare, trained by Chris Waller and ridden by Hugh Bowman, won the Group 1 WFA Cox Plate (2040m) for the second year in succession. This year she won by eight lengths over the last start Group 1 winner Hartnell (GB)

Winx was winning her eighth race this year and 13th race in succession and rated at 130 she is only behind the dirt runners Arrogate (USA) at 134 after winning over California Chrome (USA) at 133 in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Singapore’s Gold Cup
Bahana (NZ) and Craig Williams winning the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) at Kranji, picture Singapore Turf Club
Bahana (NZ) and Craig Williams winning the Group 1 Dester Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) at Kranji, picture Singapore Turf Club

Asian Racing Federation countries combined in November with the S$1.35m, Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup (2200m) at Kranji won by Bahana (NZ), trained by ex-pat New Zealander Stephen Grey, ridden by Melbourne based Australian Craig Williams for Indonesian owner Joesoef Untung.

Grey, who has trained at Kranji since 2000, secured the services of Williams with regular jockey Vlad Duric unable to make the light-weight of 50.5kg in the Singapore premier staying race.

Williams, well versed in international riding with regular riding contracts in Hong Kong, Japan, Dubai and UK, led the race in a well-executed tactical ride that left the rest of the field unable to catch the flying Elusive City five-year-old Bahana.

Time Odyssey (SAF) was second 1 ½ lengths away while Blue Swede (NZ) was third place a neck away. The winning time was 2min 17.42secs for the 2200m on the Long Course, almost four seconds slower than the course record set two years ago in the El Dorado Classic by Quechua (ARG) who ran fifth this time.

“Untung is such a lovely man. He is from Indonesia and is a Muslim, but he does not gamble or drink, he only loves horses and the game, and today he has brought his friends from Indonesia to celebrate that win. That is what racing is all about at times, the people and their love for horses,” said Grey.

The win completed a duo of major wins for Grey after he claimed the S$350,000 Group 2 EW Barker Trophy (1400m) with Lim’s Cruiser (AUS) two days before the Gold Cup meeting.

While Gray had won the EW Barker Trophy before with Born To Fly in 2014 Bahana’s win was his first with the major prize of the Gold Cup.

2016 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship
Hugh Bowman brings Winx (AUS) back to the winners stall after winning the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley, picture
Hugh Bowman brings Winx (AUS) back to the winners stall after winning the Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) at Moonee Valley, picture

A line-up of the world’s best jockeys will compete at Happy Valley Racecourse on Wednesday, December 7th for the HK$800,000 2016 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship.

The annual four-race showcase at Hong Kong’s iconic downtown venue has four of Hong Kong’s elite riders and eight overseas invited jockeys riding for the HK$500,000 winner’s prize, with HK$200,000 going to the runner-up and HK$100,000 to the third-placed jockey.
Hong Kong’s record-smashing champion Joao Moreira, a LONGINES IJC winner in 2012, will pit his wits and skills against home-based rivals and overseas challengers.

The latter group will feature English super star Ryan Moore; Australian big-race ace Hugh Bowman; Ireland’s nine-time champion Pat Smullen; Japan’s win-machine Keita Tosaki; Italy’s Japan-based dynamo Mirco Demuro; last year’s winner, South Africa’s Gavin Lerena; and two brilliant Frenchmen, Mickael Barzalona and the US-based Florent Geroux.

Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing Authority, said: “The LONGINES IJC is established as perhaps the world’s toughest jockey challenge, probably the most exciting and certainly the most lucrative. It brings together some of the world’s very best riders and pitches them into a thrilling four-race contest around Happy Valley’s floodlit arena, a track that is as stunning to behold as it is testing to ride around.”

One of those past IJC winners, Moore, will seek a third LONGINES IJC victory at his 10th appearance. The English star is destined to become the first two-time winner of the annual LONGINES World’s Best Jockey Award thanks to a phenomenal 2016 that has yielded 19 Group 1 wins so far.

Bowman, one of Australia’s finest jockeys, has been crowned Sydney champion three times. The rider has enjoyed a stellar 2016 including riding Winx (AUS) for back-to-back G1 Cox Plate victories and Werther (NZ) in the BMW Hong Kong Derby and Group 1 QEII Cup.

IJC debutant Geroux has made the USA his home since 2007 and has proven his merit as a rider for the biggest occasions. A top five jockey by earnings in the North America in 2016, he has notched nine Group 1 wins this term and has a career total of three Breeders’ Cup wins on his CV.

Tosaki was third on his IJC debut last year and will return this time with a third consecutive JRA champion jockey title in his sights.

Smullen is Ireland’s outstanding rider and partnered Harzand to an English Derby/Irish Derby double this year. He recently sealed a third consecutive championship in his homeland and ninth overall.

Barzalona won the English Derby at age 19 and at 25 he is already established as one of Europe’s outstanding talents. He will make his IJC debut.

Five-time Italian champion Demuro is forging a successful career in Japan and 18 of his 31 career Group 1 wins have been achieved there.

Lerena earned a debut victory at last year’s IJC. The 2014/15 South African champion dazzled beneath the floodlights and returned to Hong Kong for the second half of last season.

With Moreira forging well clear at the top of the local premiership, the remaining three Hong Kong-based rider slots will go to the two jockeys positioned second and third in the standings at the close of the cut-off date, Wednesday, November 23rd.

The fourth opening will go to Hong Kong’s leading homegrown rider (a graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School) according to the standings on the above date.

Sha Tin racing steps up in preparation for LONGINES HKIR

With the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races fast approaching Hong Kong stables tested their potential runners for the meeting billed as the Turf World Championships at Sha Tin on Sunday, December 11th.

After the lead-up meeting on November 20th the enormity of the task for the locals up against the world’s best was summed up by leading Australian jockey Hugh Bowman after he rode the John More trained Not Listenin’tome (AUS) to win the Group 2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Sprint (1200m).

Bowman feels that the six-year-old will have to produce a new personal best if he is to take out the HK$18.5 million Hong Kong Sprint.

“I feel he will have to run a little bit better than he did today to win, because I feel it will be a stronger race,” he said. “But that being said, if I can have the same run as I did last year, it will be very welcome because I think I have the better horse.”

John Moore sent out three runners in the Jockey Club Sprint, headlined by comeback galloper Able Friend (AUS) at his first run since last year’s LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.

However, it was Not Listenin’tome who caused a 42/1 shock under visiting rider Bowman as he held off Francis Lui-trained favourite Lucky Bubbles (AUS) by a half-length, stamping himself as the longest-priced winner of the traditional LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint trial in the process.

2014 Hong Kong Sprint winner Aerovelocity (NZ) was third for Zac Purton, a length and a quarter away, with Able Friend in fourth.

“We are going into the race on the 11th with hopes of getting a good draw and a similar sort of run. Today, he was 100 percent and he managed to beat the best of what we’ve got up here. If we can keep him in this fine form, we look forward to being competitive against the internationals,” said Moore.

Beauty Only’s (IRE) hallmark late charge snatched the Group 2 BOCHK Wealth Management Jockey Club Mile (1600m), but only just. Purton drove the Group 1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile candidate to a last stride success from stablemate and 96/1 outsider, Romantic Touch (AUS).

Beauty Only responded to the Australian’s urging to get the result by a short-head with the same distance back to Sun Jewellery.

“He’s a very intelligent horse and I suppose he just does what he has to do and as long as he’s doing that (winning) we are happy,” Purton said. Hong Kong’s former champion jockey is looking forward to riding the Holy Roman Emperor gelding in the HK$23 million LONGINES Hong Kong Mile next month.

“Tony always gets his horses to peak on the big days and he’s left a little bit there for December. He will turn the screw now, and we need to,” said the jockey, who notched a four-timer on the day.

Jockey Nash Rawiller fired Secret Weapon (GB) to an explosive victory in the Group 2 LONGINES Jockey Club Cup (2000m).

Secret Weapon’s win was trainer Dennis Yip’s first in open Pattern grade and the trainer is now eyeing one of the big races at the HK$83 million LONGINES Hong Kong International Races.

The British import is engaged in both the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Cup at the course and distance and the G1 LONGINES Hong Kong Mile (1600m).

“I think the 2000 metres is his best distance, so we’ll aim towards the Cup in three weeks’ time,” Yip said.

The full list of selected runners for the LONGINES HKIR will be announced on Wednesday, November 23rd.

Japan’s Mile Championship
Mikki Isle (JPN) and Suguru Hamanaka winning the Group 1 Mile Championship (1600m) at Kyoto, picture Japan Racing Association
Mikki Isle (JPN) and Suguru Hamanaka winning the Group 1 Mile Championship (1600m) at Kyoto, picture Japan Racing Association

Japan’s Group 1 autumn season marched on with Mikki Isle (JPN), 2014 NHK Mile Cup champion, claiming this year’s Group 1 Mile Championship (1600m) at Kyoto on November 20th which included high-level milers from various generations.

The son of Deep Impact who had given disappointing two-digit results in Group 1 mile races after his NHK Mile Cup title while showing better performances in shorter Group 1 starts—third and second, respectively, in 2015 and 2016 Takamatsunomiya Kinen; fourth and second, respectively, in 2015 and 2016 Sprinters Stakes—was raced over a mile distance for the first time in a year and a half to register his second Group 1 victory and sixth graded win.

Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi landed his eighth JRA-Group 1 win since he won the title with Mikki Isle in the NHK Mile Cup two years ago, while jockey Suguru Hamanaka also captured his eighth JRA-Group 1 title following his win in the Tenno Sho (Autumn) last year with Lovely Day.

The 36th running of the US$5.4m, Group 1 Japan Cup (2400m) at Tokyo on Sunday, November 27th, is the upcoming international race in Japan.