Eight of the world's finest Thoroughbred jockeys will compete in the fourth annual British Airways International Jockey Challenge at Santa Anita Park on Sunday, March 11.The four-race event has proven an instant hit with fans and has been enthusiastically supported by horsemen. The competition has been keen, Team USA winning the event two of the first three years including a 56-28 margin in 2000. The event features four of Europe's best jockeys competing against four of America's finest riders.For 2001, Team USA will be composed of Laffit Pincay Jr., Kent Desormeaux, Corey Nakatani and Victor Espinoza. Members were chosen by fan voting on-track and on-line. Bill Shoemaker returns to captain the Americans for a fourth straight year.Team Europe is composed of Frankie Dettori, Kieren Fallon, Olivier Peslier and Johnny Murtagh. Steve Cauthen is back for a fourth straight year as captain of the Europeans.Pincay, racing's all-time leading jockey with 9,077 victories (through Feb. 8), will make his third appearance in the event. Team USA is unbeaten with Laffit in the lineup, posting victories in the 1998 and 2000 IJC. Desormeaux previously participated in 1999 and finished second in the individual standings that year with 18 points. Nakatani and Espinoza, two of Southern California's leading riders, will be making their debuts in the red, white and blue silks of Team USA.
Team Europe includes IJC veterans Fallon, Dettori and Peslier, and Murtagh, one of Ireland's top riders who will be making his first appearance in the event. Fallon led Europe to victory in 1999 and is third all-time in individual points with 28.5The team of United States riders will vie for points against the European team in four races on the program - a sprint and a distance race on the grass course and a sprint and a distance race on the main track."We are pleased to present a promotion that spotlights jockeys," said Santa Anita General Manager Brant Latta. "And the eight jockeys who will be here on March 11 are arguably among the best in the world."The four IJC races will be regular betting events, and Santa Anita will also offer bettors a special Pick Four.The title sponsor for the event is British Airways. Other sponsors include the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Daily Racing Form, Maurice LaCroix Swiss Watches, Budweiser, Pasadena Star-News and Saddletude.com.In each race, the runners will be categorized in pairs as A, B, C and D, depending on their anticipated favoritism in the betting. Each team captain will assign one of his jockeys to an A, B, C and D horse, with each jockey permitted to ride only one in each category through the four races.Pincay, for example, could ride an A horse in the first race, a C horse in the next, a B horse in the third and a D horse in the fourth, but he will not be assigned to two or more horses of the same rating.