Winner Joao Moreira leaps off his second winner of the evening at Happy Valley in Hong Kong
At Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong on Wednesday night, Joao Moreira won this year's edition of the Longines International Jockeys' Championship, with his 2 wins and 30 points in the 4 race competition, taking home the HK$200,000 (US$25,750) first prize and tying the record of local rider Douglas Whyte with 3 career titles. Jockeys were awarded 12 points for a win, 6 points for second, and 4 for third, and competed in four races, each contested at 1650 meters (1 mile 44.5 yards) over the 7 furlong right-handed turf course with randomly assigned mounts under handicap weights, before a crowd of 18,649. New Zealand jockey James McDonald finished second with 18 points, followed by Frenchman Christophe Lemaire's 12 points.
Joao Moreira after winning the first leg aboard Travel Guide
In the first leg, Dettori sent 6-1 shot Travel Guide to the lead immediately and set a controlled pace while stalked by Andrasch Starke aboard Lucky Chevalier, then kicked clear late to win by 2 lengths over James McDonald aboard Joyful Winner, and 1/2 length more to Ryan Moore aboard Something Special third. In the second leg, McDonald aboard 3-1 Sunny More raced midpack, then closed late to win by a neck over pacesetter Starke aboard Bumper Strike. Douglas Whyte with Easy Ahead was 1 1/2 lengths back in third. In the third leg, Christophe Lemaire and 13-1 shot My Home Town stalked the pace in the 1650-meter event, then closed in the final furlong to win by 1 3/4 length over Dettori and Ambitious Treasure, with John Murtagh aboard Great Achievement another 1/2 length back in third. Dettori and McDonald were tied at 18 points going into the final leg. Dettori sat well off the pace under 7-2 Regency Winner, then came through between horses at the 1/4 pole to nail local rider Matthew Chadwick aboard Nordic Star by a neck, with another local Brett Prebble and Dr. Win 2 lengths back in third.
Dettori said after the first leg, "That was a great start to the evening. The plan was to go out and make it (set the pace), and it worked perfectly." After the second leg, winning rider McDonald said, "It's going great so far, but I just hope I can sustain it." Third leg winner Lemaire said after that race, "That was great, I'm in the competition, it is now all about the last."
After nailing down his third International Jockeys' Championship, Dettori said, "I haven't ridden in this competition for a long time (since 2003), as I have had to attend the Christmas nativity plays of my five children, but now they are older, I asked my wife if I could come here and she said Yes! I knew I had chances tonight, and the first race was fairly easy, but after that I knew I had to concentrate. When it came to the last race, I had a lot of luck, and it worked out well in the end. I love coming here and riding in Hong Kong. Not bad for an old 'un!! It's good when you win. It's hard to know what the form is like when you don't ride here but I thought I had a few chances and that first winner was very important." Dettori, who will ride Godolphin entrant Campanalogist in the Hong Kong Vase on Sunday, was actually a last minute replacement when American rider Corey Nakatani scratched out of the contest.
Left: Fireworks lit up the Happy Valley infield at the opening ceremony for the Jockey Challenge while all the participants watch on stage.
Right: All the jockeys in the challenge at the closing ceremonies. The jockeys participating were: Luke Nolen (Australia), Maxime Guyon (France), Christophe Lemaire (France), Andrasch Starke (Germany), Ryan Moore (Great Britain), John Murtagh (Ireland), Yuichi Fukunaga (Japan), James McDonald (New Zealand), Joao Moreira (Italy), Douglas Whyte (Hong Kong), Brett Prebble (Hong Kong), and Matthew Chadwick (Hong Kong). Corey Nakatani (USA) was scheduled to compete but dropped out when Regally Ready, who he was to ride in the Hong Kong Sprint on Saturday, was withdrawn.