Racing organizations in Australia, England, and Japan announced a six-race series for sprinters, the Global Sprint Challenge, that will use free or subsidized travel instead of a cash bonus as an incentive for participation. The series, set to get under way in February, was announced prior to a press conference for the Japan Cup and Japan Cup Dirt at Tokyo Race Course on Thursday.
The series is a cooperative venture of the Japan Racing Association, Ascot Racecourse in England, and Racing Victoria in Australia.
A point system of 10-5-4-3-2 for the top five finishers will be used, with the points doubling for any horse trained outside the jurisdiction where a race is run. The three jurisdictions are Australia and New Zealand for Victoria, Europe and the United Arab Emirates for Ascot, and Asia for the JRA. For example, a European horse would get double points for top five finishes in the races in Japan or Australia. American horses would get double points in any of the races.
No Global Sprint Challenge champion will be named if no horse receives at least 30 points. The winning owner will receive a commemorative trophy and all-expenses-paid trips for two to the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, the Emirates Melbourne Cup, and the Japan Cup.
The three organizations will assist with travel arrangements and consider travel incentives on a case-by-case basis.
The six races (with combined purses of $3.7 million) are:
* Teac Lightning Stakes (Aus-I) at Flemington (Aus-I), Feb. 5
* Timbercorp Australia Stakes (Aus-I) at Moonee Valley, Feb. 19
* King's Stand Stakes (Eng-II), normally during the Royal Ascot meeting but scheduled at York in 2005 on June 14 because of renovations at Ascot
* Golden Jubilee Stakes (Eng-I), also temporarily at York in 2005 on June 18
* Centaur Stakes (Jpn-III) at Hanshin on Sept. 11
* Sprinters Stakes (Jpn-I) at Nakayama on Oct. 2
No sponsor has been signed up, though organizers said they hope to attract one. They also said a bonus scheme is a possibility in future years.
"Our research showed that the connections of sprinters seem the most eager to take on an international challenge," said Nick Smith, head of public relations for Ascot.
Stephen Allanson, director of racing operations for Racing Victoria, cited Australia-based Choisir's 2003 triumph at Royal Ascot as an inspiration for the initiative. He also said the sprint division was of great interest for such an event because of the "global trend that favors speed stallions."
British trainer Clive Brittain, a longtime proponent of international competition, called the Global Sprint Challenge "a series of races that would interest me. I'm 100% for it and I'm looking for some free travel."