The Hong Kong Jockey Club Wednesday announced four of its races have been upgraded to International Group 1 status, raising the total of Hong Kong International Group 1 events to 10.
The HKJC also announced massive purse increases across the board for its international events.
The Asian Pattern Committee has unanimously voted to grant the highest rating to the Stewards' Cup (1,600 meters), the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup (2,000 meters), the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup (2,400 meters) and the Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup (1,400 meters), CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said at a briefing.
The four events, run this year on separate dates scattered from January through May, have not yet been slotted into the 2015 calendar. They join two existing Group 1 features traditionally run in the spring, the Audemars Piguet QE II Cup at 2,000 meters and the Champions Mile, providing the HKJC with significant flexibility in scheduling and sponsorship opportunities.
The Audemars Piguet QEII Cup, won this year by local star Designs On Rome, will receive the largest purse increase, from HK$14 million to HK$20 million. The Champions Mile, dominated this year by South Africa's Variety Club, will be worth HK$14 million after a rise of HK$2 million.
Each of the four promoted International Group 1 races will be worth HK$10 million, a HK$2 million rise on last season. Three of those, the Stewards' Cup, the Citibank Hong Kong Gold Cup and the Standard Chartered Champions & Chater Cup, comprise the Hong Kong Triple Crown (all-aged).
The HKJC also stages the "World Turf Championships" on the second Sunday of December, comprising four Group 1 events at a range of distances. Those races also get big purse boosts. The Longines Hong Kong Cup (2,000m) will now carry a purse of HK$25 million, a rise of HK$3 million, to maintain its status as Hong Kong's most lucrative prize, while the Longines Hong Kong Mile purse has also risen by HK$3 million, to HK$23 million. The Longines Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m) is now worth HK$18.5 million, a rise of HK$3.5 million, and the value of the Longines Hong Kong Vase (2,400m) is now HK$16.5 million, up HK$1.5 million.
The exchange rate is approximately HK$13.3 to UK 1 pound sterling or HK$7.75 to US$1.
Engelbrecht-Bresges said when the HKJC decided in 2000 to focus on elevating the status of Hong Kong racing, the organization "looked at our competitiveness in attracting the best horses to Hong Kong's International races. The competition to attract the best horses to International Group 1 events is now significant," he said. "Prize money is increasing at the major events around the world and if Hong Kong wants to be a global leader we have to have prize money that is recognized as world-leading."
William Nader, HKJC's Executive Director of Racing, added, "The world has woken up to how strong Hong Kong racing is ... Not only did Hong Kong-trained horses win four of our six International Group1s last season, we also had two Group 1 victories in Singapore and two in Dubai this year from a horse population of only 1,200."
Nader noted five of the six HKJC International Group 1 events are in the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities World's Top 50 races. "And we could potentially have more in the future because some of those promoted races are very strong already, with ratings comfortably above the benchmark. Ratings do not lie."
Engelbrecht-Bresges noted the elevation of the four races to international Group 1 status also impacts the value of horses competing in the events. A winner of a local HK Group 1 race -- as the four races previously were designated -- appears in sales catalogues as being the equivalent of a Listed race winner. "The only way to remedy that was to increase them to International Group 1 status and open them up to foreign competition, he said. "This can only enhance our position on the world stage as owners and breeders see the value of racing in Hong Kong."