Hong Kong 2022 International Jockey Championship: Spot Plays
Wednesday’s Happy Valley races are highlighted not so much by the horses but the riders, as it’s Longines International Jockeys Championship day.
Seven jockeys from outside Hong Kong join five locally-based riders for the four-race event, which carries a first prize of HK$500,000 (about $64,000).
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The international challenge is headed by Ryan Moore, the British rider who recently won the outstanding jockey award at the Breeders’ Cup, and James McDonald, the New Zealander based in Australia who won the Longines world’s best jockey award for 2022 after winning nine of the world’s top 100 Group or Grade 1 races, aboard five different horses.
Other top overseas-based riders in the contest are Britain’s first couple of riding, Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle, top French rider Mickael Barzalona, and two outstanding Australian riders, Hugh Bowman (best known as the regular rider of Winx) and pioneering female jockey Jamie Kah.
Hong Kong’s team is led by its champion jockey, the Australian expat Zac Purton, who has won this competition three times. Also representing Hong Kong are the Brazilian-born Silvestre de Sousa, former South African champion Lyle Hewitson, leading homegrown Hong Kong rider Matthew Chadwick, and another Hong Kong star in Vincent Ho, best-known for his association with champion miler Golden Sixty.
The four-race competition covers races 4, 5, 7, and 8, works on a points-based system, with 12 points for the win, six points for second place, and four points to third.
The horses are drawn at random so it is arguably going to be difficult to follow one jockey in particular, but it should still be interesting to bet on the races given most of the riders — even the locals — will be aboard their mounts for the first time. Don’t be surprised if Purton and Bowman fight out the competition.
Here’s a look at the races.
Race 4: Class 4, 1,000 meters (about 5 furlongs)
#1 Forte is not the champion U.S. juvenile, but rather a six-year-old New Zealand-bred by Per Incanto. Nonetheless, he’s a fairly consistent runner who kept finding one or two horses too good last year in Class 3 company. This is his first start for the season, and he gets the services of Bowman, who has been in top form in a brief Hong Kong stint in the past few weeks.
Purton has the advantage of the ace draw with #7 Supreme Lucky, while others to watch could be Chadwick with #10 Faribault and Barzalona with #4 Circuit Seven.
Race 5: Class 4, 1,650 meters (about 1 mile 40 yards)
Bowman has another outstanding chance here with #3 Royal Pride, an impressive winner at his last start who gets the inside draw here. However, he has gone up six pounds in the ratings and thus has a tougher task.
One that I have some time for here is Marquand’s mount, #4 Spicy Grill. He doesn’t help himself by getting out of the gates slowly but is invariably rattling home, and if Marquand can get him to a midfield spot from the start, he can win this. Also worth considering are #9 Sunny Delight and #1 Win Win Fighter (Barzalona), first and second in a race over this distance Nov. 23.
- $10 win/$20 show: #4 Spicy Grill
- $1 exacta box: 1, 3, 4, 9
Race 7: Class 3, 1,650 meters
This race looks very open. Purton’s mount, #9 Packing Famous, should be well-supported after finishing second at his last two starts, but he hasn’t run since September so should be taken on trust to some degree.
Doyle could hold the trump card here with #3 Rising From Ashes. A close second two starts back and then fifth in a decent field Nov. 16 after a wide draw, Rising From Ashes this time gets the inside barrier, which should help.
Doyle could find her husband Marquand to be her biggest rival. He is aboard #7 Winning Dragon, who won the race that Rising From Ashes contested Nov. 16. Winning Dragon is up five pounds in the ratings after that but still looks a decent chance.
- $10 win/$30 show: #3 Rising From Ashes
- $2 exacta box: 3, 7, 9
Race 8: Class 3, 1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs)
There’s a lot of form in this contest. One of the key form races came Nov. 16, when #1 Gold Marquis scored a decisive win and #3 Adios finished third. The winner was very impressive in the hands of Chadwick — who in a stroke of luck has the mount here as well — but he had a much more favorable barrier (5) than Adios (10). With Gold Marquis six pounds worse off in this race with Adios and the barriers much more in favor of the latter, that result can turn around.
However, the one to beat may well be #7 Xponential. He was a very close second at his last start and has drawn Purton, who knows how to win at this track better than anyone. From gate six, he should get a forward position and be right in the hunt at the finish.
- $10 win/$30 show: #7 Xponential
- $2 exacta box: 1, 3, 7