German Starke Wins Second Hong Kong Title
Photo: Hong Kong Jockey Club
Ronald Arculli, chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, presents a silver whip and the cash prize to jockey Andrasch Starke, winner of the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys' Championship 2005.
Top German jockey Andrasch Starke won his second international jockeys' championship at Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong Dec. 7 and took home the first-place check of HK$200,000 for his efforts.

Starke also won the event in 2000. When asked how he planned to spend the money, Starke said his girlfriend was browsing in shops in Hong Kong earlier in the day, and probably would go back.

"The last check I got (in 2000) was already spent," he said.

Twelve jockeys battled in the three races that comprised the Cathay Pacific International Jockeys' Championship, a major event leading up to the Dec. 11 Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin racecourse. The title was determined by a points system.

Starke, 31, finished second aboard Chan Tam Kim's Right Choice in the fourth race, third with Mr. and Mrs. Brian Caird's Desert Strike in the fifth race, and won the sixth race with Bunch of Bankers Syndicate's Sunbell. It was enough to give him a 10-point lead, the biggest margin of victory since 1998.

Hong Kong riders Howard Y.T. Cheng and Douglas Whyte finished in a dead heat for second, while Christophe Soumillon of France finished fourth.

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, executive director of racing for the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said he was pleased to see two locally based riders do well in the competition, which included Edgar Prado from the United States. Of Cheng, who was on hand for the post-race press conference, he said: "It's not easy to compete against many of the world's best, but this season he has proven he's among the best jockeys. Hopefully, he'll get some owners who will support him in the International races."

The jockey championship was ushered in with ceremonies that featured fireworks just inside the turf course at Happy Valley, a cozy and crowded facility that appears as though it was dropped in the middle of the city. The winning jockey generally brings his horse back in front of the crowd after each race, and patrons crowd the rail to cheer or hold out their hands in congratulations.

The post-position draw for the four group I International Races at Sha Tin is set for the morning of Dec. 8. Starke is scheduled to ride 6-year-old German-bred Epalo (by Lando) in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup at 2,000 meters on the turf.

Epalo won the 2004 group I Singapore Airlines at 2,000 meters on the grass but this year has started only four times with one win--a group 3 stakes in Germany. Still, with nine wins, eight seconds, and three thirds in 25 career starts, Epalo is "a tough horse," Starke said.

"He's 6-years-old now, but at the moment he's in good performance," said Starke, Epalo's regular rider. "If he finishes in the first three or four horses, I'd be very happy with him."

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