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Four top European jockeys — including multiple champion Ryan Moore — were late arrivals in Hong Kong for Wednesday’s Longines International Challenge after a troubled journey from the UK.
Moore, Hollie Doyle, Tom Marquand and Mickael Barzalona were scheduled to catch a charter flight from Stansted airport near London on Sunday night but “technical issues resulted in an overnight delay”.
Whatever the final checks were for the plane, it did not pass. “At least they discovered the issues before we got on,” Marquand said. He has enjoyed another successful year in the UK, and rides Dubai Honour for trainer William Haggas in Sunday’s Hong Kong Cup at Sha-Tin racecourse.
Wednesday’s International Jockeys Challenge takes place at the Happy Valley racetrack with eight top overseas riders taking on the cream of Hong Kong. The other four overseas riders are James McDonald (New Zealand), Damian Lane (Australia), Yuga Kawada (Japan) and Lyle Hewitson (SA).
Hewitson, who has just begun a second stint in Hong Kong, opened his account when successful on Valiant Elegance for trainer Dougie Whyte at Sha-Tin on Sunday.
It is understandable that this event lures the best jockeys on the planet as the one with the most points at the conclusion of the four-race contest receives a first prize of HK$500,000 (about R1m).
No jockey goes into the Challenge in better form than Kiwi McDonald. In the period October 30 to November 6 the 29-year-old rode 10 winners including four grade 1 races and Australia’s most famous race, the Melbourne Cup, on Verry Elleegant.
“It really just couldn’t have gone any better to win a Melbourne Cup and four grade 1s in the space of five days was pretty cool. Hopefully the momentum carries on,” McDonald told the South China Morning Post upon arrival in Hong Kong.
The last jockey on such a high note ahead of the Challenge was Frankie Dettori who journeyed to the former British colony after his momentous achievement of riding all seven winners at Ascot in 1996.
The home side are represented by reigning champion Zac Purton, Joao Moreira, Alexis Badel and Vincent Ho Chak-yiu.
Asked what he thought of the final fields, Purton said: “My first impression was that Ryan Moore has some decent rides, he seems to get good mounts and good gates every year. I think Yuga Kawada and Damian Lane have some nice rides as well.”
The best mount for Lane is likely to be Tony Cruz’s runner, California Cible, a promising four-year-old who runs in the final event of the Challenge.
Moreira picked out Red Majesty and Classic Posh as probably his best mounts in the four-race competition.
The Happy Valley meeting begins at 12.30pm (SA Time) with the first international race at 2.10pm. The races will be shown on Tellytrack (DStv channel 249).
Meanwhile, trainer Mike de Kock said on his website that Desert Miracle — beaten favourite in last Saturday’s Cape Fillies Guineas — will return to the highveld to contest the Triple Tiara.
“Travelling to the Cape is never easy. Desert Miracle had her head up at the start, she was green first time at Kenilworth and appeared to shirk for a moment when Gavin Lerena changed his stick at the 200m mark. All factors which may have cost her the race,” he said.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.