Mr Lawrence Wong, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, ties the lucky ribbon on the ceremonial lion during the HKIR 2002 Opening Ceremony. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Hong Kong racing enjoyed the greatest day in its 157-year history when three of the four Group 1 Hong Kong International Races went to home-based horses at Sha Tin on Sunday. Attendance was up 8% to 62,030, and the handle was $1.078 billion HK (about $138 million US). "What a day," said Lawrence Wong, the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Chief Executive, "certainly the greatest days in Hong Kong racing. Quite a good scorecard wasn't it? It's a strong endorsement of the drive to improve the quality of horses here. Wednesday was the first time one of our local jockeys won the International Jockeys' Championship and it set the tone for the rest of the Hong Kong team to follow." "We want to stage the Turf World Championships and after today's action, you would have to say that we are absolutely on target," said a delighted Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Club's Executive Director of Racing.
Precision (gray on the outside) with jockey Mick Kinane gets up ahead of Paolini to secure the Hong Kong Cup for the home team. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club.
In the headline event, the Hong Kong Cup, Precision drove to an upset victory by a head over 20-1 shot Paolini, benefiting from a brilliant ride by Mick Kinane, in a time of 2:07.1 for the 2000 meter (1 1/4 mile) distance. Sent off at the huge odds of almost 66-1, he returned the highest win mutuel in the history of Hong Kong's international racing festival. U.S. based Sarafan was fourth and odds-on favorite Grandera disappointed in seventh. Kinane said, "I had a smooth run down the outside while everyone else was having a rough time on the rail. When I asked him to quicken, he did it really well. I have to admit it is a bit of a surprise but it's great to get a result and finish the season like this."
Olympic Express and jockey Weichong Marwing claim the Hong Kong Mile from Electronic Unicorn and Robbie Fradd to form a locally trained quinella. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club.
In the Hong Kong Mile, 48-1 longshot Olympic Express took the lead at the 1/8 pole, and withstood the late run of 10-1 chance Electronic Unicorn, runner-up in this race for the second time. The final time was 1:34.9 for the 1600 meters. Even-money favorite Noverre was eighth. Winning jockey Weichong Marwing said, "Olympic Express came into the race a fresh horse, and he gets the mile well. He traveled so well for me. I knew I had a great chance entering the straight as I saw I was going better than [fifth place finisher] Super Molly, a horse that was quite fancied. It's incredible, a great feeling."
All Thrills Too with Gerald Mosse wins the Hong Kong Sprint for another locally trained quinella. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The Hong Kong Sprint featured a winning favorite, when 3-1 choice All Thrills Too, under French jockey Gerald Mosse, defeated Firebolt by 1 1/2 lengths with Australia's Falvelon, who was bidding for a third consecutive win in the race, in third. The time for the 1000 meters (5 furlongs) was 56.4. U.S.-based Texas Glitter was eighth. This marked the second time in four runnings that Hong Kong horse won the world's richest 1000-metre race. It also was the first time in the history of the Hong Kong International Races that Hong Kong horses finished in one-two in any event. Winning trainer David Hayes said he was confident, "but that is a trait of mine. I knew he had improved from last year, just with maturity. He is a big, strong horse, but he has gotten more solid. This is my biggest thrill in Hong Kong."
Ange Gabriel with Thierry Jarnet win the Hong Kong Vase over Aquarelliste. Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Jockey Club.
The French invaders prevented a local sweep when 4-year-old colt Ange Gabriel closed powerfully on the outside in the final furlong to win the Hong Kong Vase as the 4-1 second choice. Spurred on by the strong efforts of jockey Thierry Jarnet, he prevailed by 3/4 length over 2-1 favorite Aquarelliste, with Falcon Flight third. Final time was 2:28.4 for the 2400-meter (1 1/2 mile) distance. Winning jockey Thierry Jarnet said, "He's a champion horse. Top class. He did everything I asked of him. I think there is more improvement in this horse." Out of the first five home, four (including the top two finishers) were either trained in France, or have been conditioned there earlier in their careers.
Ciaran Kennelly, the HKJC Senior Handicapper, said the Vase was the highest ever rated 2400m event to be staged in Hong Kong. The winner will now be rated just behind Breeders' Cup Turf winner High Chaparral. "When the International Classifications are published next month, there will be more Hong Kong horses than ever before, which is great. The International Handicappers rate All Thrills Too's performance to be equal with any horse in the world over 1000m in his age group."