Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the Hong Kong Jockey's Challenge.

Frankie Dettori celebrates winning the Hong Kong Jockey's Challenge.

Hong Kong Jockey Club

Dettori wins Hong Kong Jockeys' Challenge

Third victory in six tries in competition for Dettori.

By Bob Kieckhefer

Frankie Dettori, subbing for Corey Nakatani, won the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys’ Championship, booting home the winner of the last leg of the Dec. 7 competition with a dramatic stretch run.

It was the third victory for Dettori in six tries in the competition. In his two previous wins, in 1999 and 2001, he represented the UAE. This year, he was listed as representing his native Italy. Dettori, nearing 41, had not ridden in the jockeys’ event since 2003, citing a desire to spend time with his children during the holidays. He said he needed his wife’s permission to ride in this year’s event after being invited and celebrated both wins with his trademark flying dismount

Dettori won the first leg of this year’s competition, dueling to the lead aboard Travel Guide and then holding well down the stretch at Hong Kong’s in-town track, Happy Valley. The second leg went to New Zealand’s John McDonald with Dettori unplaced. Christophe Lemaire, representing France, won the third race but Dettori eked out a second-place finish with a good ride.

The fourth and final race provided a bit of tension as Dettori’s mount, Regency Winner, raced well back of the field on a night when speed seemed to be the key to success. When the field turned for home, Dettori needed a seam and found it, quickly catching the front-runners and scoring by a neck.

“I knew I had chances tonight,” Dettori said, “and the first race was fairly easy. But after that, I knew I had to concentrate. When it came to the last race, I had a lot of luck, and it worked out well in the end.”

Dettori wound up with 30 points. McDonald finished second with 18 and Lemaire was third with 12. No other rider was close. Dettori won a trophy and HK$200,000 – about US$25,000. 

The jockey championship is the kickoff for the Cathay Pacific International Races, to be run on Dec.. 11 at the more expansive Sha Tin Racecourse. The four International group I races are billed by the Hong Kong Jockey Club as the “World Turf Championships.” While some international stars, including two recent Breeders’ Cup winners and a British superstar, were withdrawn after pre-entries, the races retain a significant international flavor.

Regally Ready, winner of the Breeders Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT), and Perfect Shirl, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), were withdrawn last week. Nakatani was to have ridden Regally Ready and the scratch also resulted in his withdrawal from the Jockey Championship, opening the door for Dettori. Snow Fairy, winner of last year’s Hong Kong Cup HK-I), was injured in preparations for this year’s Hong King Vase, and returned to England. Excelebration also was withdrawn.

The Hong Kong Cup, at 2,000 meters, attracted Byword, who beat Cirrus des Aigles in the Qatar Prix Dollar (Fr-II) at Longchamp in Paris before finishing eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT), Cirrus des Aigles, who came back to win the Qipco Champion Stakes (Eng-I) at Ascot over So You Think and local favorites Ambitious Dragon and California Memory.

The 2,400 meter Hong Kong Vase (HK-I) drew the 1-2 finishers in the recent Melbourne Cup (Aus-I)-– Dunaden and Red Cadeaux; Sarah Lynx, winner of the Canadian International (Can-IT) at Woodbine; Godolphin Racing’s Campanologist; and others from France, Japan and Italy. Dettori, who has won six Hong Kong International Race events over the years, will ride Campanologist on Sunday.

New Zealand runner Jimmy Choux, second in the Cox Plate (Aus-I) in Australia earlier this year, headlines the Mile, with entrants from England, France and Japan joining the fray.

Singapore-based Rocket Man, who narrowly lost to J J the Jet Plane in last year’s 1,600-meter Sprint (HK-I), is back for another try, having added the Dubai Golden Shaheen and the KrisFlyer International Sprint (Sin-I) on his home track to his winners’ list in the interim.

Post positions will be drawn Dec. 8 in the Sha Tin parade ring.