The group I Hong Kong Jockey Club Champions Mile will become the first race held outside the United States in the new Breeders’ Cup Challenge, a series of official qualifying races for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, officials of Breeders’ Cup Limited announced Feb. 23 in conjunction with the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
Both the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Breeders’ Cup Limited also announced that, for the first time, racing fans in Hong Kong will be able to wager on this year’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships races.
In addition to hosting the first non-U.S. Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, the Hong Kong Jockey Club will be further linked to the Breeders’ Cup by way of a $1-million (U.S.) bonus to any horse that wins the NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) and another of the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s premier events, the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (HK-I), which is traditionally held in early December at Sha Tin Racecourse, in the same year. The two parties will co-fund the bonus.
In 2006, Breeders’ Cup Limited introduced the Breeders’ Cup Challenge and its “Win and You’re In” designation, a series of 24 races whose winners qualify automatically for their respective divisional races for the $23-million, 11-race Breeders’ Cup World Championships (provided they are nominated and otherwise eligible for the Breeders’ Cup) which will be held Oct. 26 and 27 at Monmouth Park in New Jersey.
Scheduled for April 29 and carrying a purse of more than $1 million (U.S.), the 2007 Champions Mile at Sha Tin will be the first in a proposed international expansion of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge, Breeders’ Cup officials said.
The Champions Mile was inaugurated in 2001 and was won for the last two years by Bullish Luck, first upsetting the previously unbeaten Silent Witness in 2005 and last year netting a $1-million (U.S.) bonus for adding a second victory in the four-legged Asian Mile Challenge in the Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo.
“The Breeders’ Cup World Championships attract the very best Thoroughbreds from around the world,” said Bill Farish, Breeders’ Cup Chairman. “Extending the Breeders’ Cup Challenge to some of the top international races is a natural development of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge. We are excited to welcome the Hong Kong Jockey Club Champions Mile the first international race under the Breeders’ Cup Challenge banner in 2007.”
Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the HKJC's chief executive officer, added: "Racing's future lies in its globalisation, and it is vital that we promote it as a sport that transcends local borders.
"This landmark agreement link between the Club and Breeders' Cup Limited will have two immediate and very positive benefits: it will enhance international competition on the racetrack and deepen commingled betting pools off it.
"It is also very important to establish links with million-dollar prize-money incentives between some of the world's greatest Mile races, two of which are highlights at the end of season world championships in North America and Hong Kong," he added.
The Champions Mile is likely to be the only non-U.S. race in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge in 2007, but the program is expected to expand beyond that in 2008 to include additional international races, Breeders’ Cup officials indicated.
As part of the agreement, the HKJC will accept wagering on the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) and the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) and advertise and promote the event to its more than one-million account wagering customers.
The type of wagers made available to HKJC account wagering customers will depend on whether the pools are comingled or if they remain separate. At this time, the Hong Kong Jockey Club does not have the ability to comingle wagering pools.
“One of the primary areas of future growth for the Breeders’ Cup is the international wagering market, and Hong Kong is a lynchpin of that growth,” said Greg Avioli, Breeders’ Cup president. “We look forward to marketing the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to the enthusiastic racing fans in Hong Kong, in particular, and to other markets in Asia.”
Avioli said the Breeders' Cup is currently working to establish a live feed of the championship races to be shown in Hong Kong.
The two parties will also conduct joint marketing and cross-promotional programs to be developed in the coming months.