Peslier Captures Hong Kong Jockey Battle

By Tracy Gantz
Olivier Peslier of France took his second title in the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys' Championship Wednesday night at Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong. Riding against 11 jockeys from around the world, including Javier Castellano of the U.S., Peslier defeated Glenn Boss of Australia and Andreas Suborics, Austrian-born but a competitor for Germany.

In the final contest of the three-race series, Hong Kong-based Eddy W. M. Lai was unseated when his mount, Carrizo Creek, clipped heels. Several runners appeared to strike Lai, who remained motionless as emergency personnel moved him onto a stretcher and out of the way of the field as they were pulling up following the finish. Initial reports were that Lai was in stable condition and had miraculously suffered only some bruising, a sore wrist, and possibly a concussion.

"He was conscious and talking," said Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, executive director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club. "He was joking to the security director, and fortunately it does not appear to be as serious as first expected."

The International Jockeys' Championship, which uses a point system to determine the winner, begins a week of racing events that culminate with the Dec. 10 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin racecourse.

In the first race of the Championship, Castellano gave U.S. supporters hope when his mount, X-Speed, led into the stretch. But the horse faded to eventually finish ninth, while Boss won aboard Harry Harry. Peslier earned his first points with a fifth aboard Specific Sorceror, a performance that would ultimately clinch the victory. The French rider won the second leg on Classa Supreme, despite that horse's penchant for running to the outside rail.

"The horse preferred the other side of the racetrack," Peslier said. "He wanted to see the people and go to the bar."

In the third and final leg, Peslier was unable to add to his lead when his mount, Noble Silence, was scratched. Suborics won on Fortune Warrior to tie Boss for second place.

Peslier, who captured his first International Championship in 1998, received HK$200,000 in winning this year, while Suborics and Boss each earned HK$50,000.

The International Championship is very popular with the Happy Valley fans. After the card's first two races and before the first championship event, the Hong Kong Jockey Club introduced each jockey accompanied by fireworks. The enthusiastic crowd reserved its biggest cheers for local favorite Douglas Whyte, currently the track's leading rider. After the participants received silver commemorative dishes, they tossed small stuffed horses into the stands, the horses sporting blinkers decked out in the flag of the country the rider represented.

Hong Kong's week of international racing continues on the morning of Dec. 7 with the post-position draw for the four group I races: the HK$20 million Hong Kong Cup, HK$16 million Hong Kong Mile, HK$14 million Hong Kong Vase, and HK$12 million Hong Kong Sprint. Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. I) winner Ouija Board is slated to make her final career start in the Vase, a race she won last year.