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Ryan Moore headlines star-studded LONGINES IJC line-up including James McDonald and Yuga Kawada

November 18, 2021, 6:51:16 AM

A stellar line-up featuring established greats and riders with red hot recent form will contest the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) at Happy Valley Racecourse on Wednesday, 8 December, 2021.

The exciting line-up includes three previous winners of the world’s most coveted jockey challenge crown, including Zac Purton and reigning Hong Kong Champion Jockey Joao Moreira, both multiple champions on the world’s most intensely competitive circuit. Reigning LONGINES IJC champion Zac Purton and Ryan Moore will both chase a record-equalling third IJC title. 

The HK$800,000 LONGINES IJC is a four-race competition for 12 elite jockeys, and this year’s edition features eight overseas riders and four based in Hong Kong, all battling for the HK$500,000 top prize, the most lucrative jockeys’ challenge winner’s cheque in the world.

Ryan Moore is no stranger to the LONGINES IJC, readying for his 15th appearance in the prestigious event at the iconic city circuit. Currently sitting at the top of the LONGINES World’s Best Jockey standings, Moore will have another opportunity to add further gloss to his already incredible record in the saddle at Happy Valley next month.

In-form James McDonald joins the star-studded list, having performed at an exceptional level this year. Hailing from New Zealand, McDonald recently broke the record for the most wins in a Melbourne Cup Carnival week, securing 10 victories – including the G1 Melbourne Cup – across the four meetings to surpass Brett Prebble’s record of nine.

McDonald, who ranks third in the LONGINES World’s Best Jockey standings behind Ryan Moore (112 points) with 96 points, in the best form of his career, having plundered four G1 victories during the four-day Melbourne Cup carnival and is also a clear leader in both the New South Wales and Sydney jockeys’ championships.

Yuga Kawada – one of Japan’s leading riders – is also performing at the top of his game and arrives in Hong Kong at the end of a year highlighted by his historic win with Loves Only You – the first Japanese-trained runner to score a Breeders’ Cup triumph, claiming the G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar earlier this month. Through the current JRA season, Kawada is riding in sublime form with a win strike rate above 28%.

Meanwhile, Australian talent Damian Lane will join the contest for the first time. The 27-year-old rider has firmly established himself as one of the world’s rising talents, winning three out of the four legs of Australian racing’s ‘Grand Slam’ by securing the Golden Slipper aboard Kiamichi, Caulfield Cup aboard Mer De Glace and W.S. Cox Plate with Lys Gracieux in 2019.

Mickael Barzalona, representing France, will make his fourth LONGINES IJC appearance this year. He became one of the youngest riders ever to win the Derby when Pour Moi won at Epsom in 2011 and he added another Classic success to his record last year when Andre Fabre’s Victor Ludorum won the French 2000 Guineas. His latest G1 win came on Sealiway in the Champion Stakes at Ascot in October.

Aged 30, Barzalona currently leads the French jockeys’ championship – the Cravache d’Or – with 172 winners so far for the season after a five-timer at Marseille on Sunday (14 November).

British duo, Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle, will join the contest for the second time as two of world racing’s most rapidly ascending stars. Aged 23 and 25 respectively, the couple sealed third and fifth place in the 2021 British Flat Racing Jockeys Championship and both made their LONGINES IJC debuts last year. In 2020, Doyle became the first female jockey to win a leg of the IJC, allowing her to finish joint third with Alexis Badel in the event.

South Africa will be represented in the LONGINES IJC for the first time since Gavin Lerena’s appearance in 2016 with Lyle Hewitson slated to make his debut. The 24-year-old rider, after spending six months riding in Hong Kong through the 2019/2020 season, not only scored a pair of G2 triumphs in Japan but also captured his third South Africa Champion Jockey title in the 2020/2021 season. He has returned to Hong Kong to ride this term.

The final two spots on the 12-rider roster for the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship will go to the highest-ranked rider in the Hong Kong championship standings, as well as the leading homegrown rider (a graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Apprentice Jockeys’ School) at the cut-off date, which follows the race meeting on Wednesday, 24 November 2021.

Mr. Andrew Harding, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Executive Director, Racing, said: “The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races and International Jockeys’ Championship is the flagship event of Hong Kong racing and one of the World’s top five racing events. It is a symbol of Hong Kong’s world-class racing and the city’s most prestigious international event.

“This year’s LONGINES IJC has all the ingredients to provide another memorable edition. We have a fantastic line-up of accomplished riders, many of whom are in career-best form, including Yuga Kawada and James McDonald. Added to that is the return of Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle who are competing for the second time and will again add great excitement to what is always a thrilling contest.”

“We are delighted to have assembled an outstanding cast of riders and we are looking forward to a great night of sport set against the backdrop of one of the most iconic racecourses in the world.”

“We are grateful for the opportunity to stage the event and will be meticulous in our implementation of the HKIR 2021 racing bubble that underpins this,” said Mr Harding.

The LONGINES IJC is the most prestigious jockey challenge in the world and the most lucrative for the winning rider. The four races are worth a combined HK$6.2 million in prize money. Meanwhile, a total prize fund of HK$800,000 in bonus money for the most successful riders will be split three ways, with the winner set to receive HK$500,000 and second and third HK$200,000 and HK$100,000 respectively.

To ensure attractive fields for the exciting events on Wednesday, 8 December, prize money for the four LONGINES IJC races will benefit from a 20% increase, with two races in Class 4 at HK$1,248,000 each and two races in Class 3 at HK$1,884,000 each.

In addition, trainers will again have an added incentive to target their horses at LONGINES IJC races this year thanks to a bonus scheme which will pay HK$200,000, HK$100,000 and HK$50,000 respectively to the three handlers who achieve the highest number of points across the four races, using the same scale as employed for the jockeys. 

The four-race competition works on a points-based system with 12 points for a winner, six points for second place and four points for a third. The ranking of each jockey will be determined by the total number of points earned over all four races and the LONGINES IJC champion will be the jockey with the highest accumulated points.

In the case of a dead-heat for any of the first three placings, points will be added and then divided by the number of horses involved. In the LONGINES IJC, substitute jockeys are eligible for points and if a countback is required it will go back to fourth place. Homegrown jockeys with 2lb or 3lb claims are eligible for selection for the IJC but there will be no claiming allowance in the four IJC races. Apprentice jockeys do not qualify for selection.

The Club will again use a “jockey rides” model to increase the probability of a more even distribution of winning chances. This year’s edition will again feature the process successfully employed last year of allocating rides with a model designed to make the contest competitive and to reduce the risk of individual riders being dealt a particularly strong or weak hand.

The minimum riding weight for LONGINES IJC races is 116lb. If there are more than 12 entries for a race, the Club’s Handicappers will use their discretion to give preference to horses who have shown reasonable recent form. This will form the basis for a process in which each rider will be allocated four rides based on an estimated average of each horse’s chance as supplied by the Club’s Jockey Challenge odds-compiling team.

The odds-compiling team will assess the credentials of every runner in advance and, without knowing who will ride each horse, will submit their final assessments once the barrier draw is made on the morning of Monday, 6 December.

Based on the successful implementation of the special ‘Racing Bubble’ for the 2020 LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) and 2021 FWD Champions Day, the Club will once again establish another ‘Racing Bubble’ to safeguard the public and industry participants.

The ‘Racing Bubble’ for next month’s LONGINES HKIR will operate on a closed loop management framework to protect both the overseas racing participants and local community from public health risk. It incorporates multiple layers of stringent measures that are additional to what was implemented in December 2020 and April 2021.

All overseas racing participants must be fully vaccinated and provide two negative results of a PCR-based nucleic acid test within seven days and 48 hours, respectively, before their scheduled departure flights to Hong Kong. They will travel to Hong Kong by designated private planes arranged by the Club.

The visiting riders will also be under continuous medical surveillance by the Club’s Chief Medical Officer – including daily COVID-19 tests and twice daily temperature checks – and on LONGINES IJC night at Happy Valley and LONGINES HKIR day at Sha Tin, the visiting riders will occupy a separate jockeys’ rooms away from the Hong Kong-based riders.