Prizemoney for the Hong Kong Jockey Club's 2009 group I Champions Mile has been boosted by 50% next year to HK$12 million, giving it a badly-needed shot in the arm that should cement its significance as the third leg of the Asian Mile Challenge.

The Jockey Club has also pumped an extra HK$25 million into domestic racing from Classes Five to One, from the start of the new season in September, with the strongest increases being from Class Three and upwards where prizemoney will grow by more than 9%.

The club has also increased its first-win bonus scheme for Private Purchase (PP) horses that score in Classes Two and One. The Class Two bonus has been boosted by HK$200,000 (50%), from HK$400,000 to HK$600,000, while the Class One first-win bonus has also gone up HK$200,000 (33%), from HK$600,000 to HK$800,000.

The club’s executive director of racing, Bill Nader, said the majority of prizemoney had been directed to the heart of local racing.

“We felt that was where it was most needed,” Nader began. “At the lower end of the class spectrum, Class Five prizemoney has gone up from HK$465,000 to HK$485,000 and in Class Four, from HK$590,000 to HK$625,000. In Class Three, the prizemoney has gone from HK$750,000 last season to HK$780 this season, and up to HK$850,000 from September.”

Nader said Class Two prizemoney would be lifted by HIK$100,000 and Class One by HK$150,000, taking the total stakes offered for that grade to HK$1.15 million and HK$1.75 million respectively.

The club has also recognized that a number of Class One races are conducted in the 105-85 band and not true Class Ones [120-100], but more like glorified Class Twos. For these races, the club has introduced an intermediate prizemoney level of HK$1.4 million.

The Cathay Pacific International races will remain unchanged, with the HK$20 million Hong Kong Cup the day’s main attraction and still the richest horserace in town.

 “Of the international races, we felt that the Champions Mile was the race that needed addressing,” Nader continued. “Considering the other major races in the same bracket, HK$8 million clearly isn’t enough and the response to the race this year showed us that pretty clearly.

“By giving it an injection of HK$4 million, that gives us a total of seven races --- six international Group Ones plus the Mercedes-Benz Hong Kong Derby --- offering prizemoney of HK$12 or more.”

The other initiative announced yesterday was first-win bonuses for graduates of the Hong Kong International Sale at three levels --- Griffin, Class Four and Class Three.

“We have made a significant profit from the sale in recent years, which was not our intention and while it’s impossible to predict that would continue, we would like to show our support and appreciation for HKIS buyers by providing these bonuses,” Nader added.

HKIS graduates, including those from the two sessions of the 2007 sale, will be eligible for first-win bonuses next season of HK$300,000 in either Griffin or Class Four races, or HK$400,000 in the rare case of that first win being in Class Three.

The HKIS graduates will then be eligible for a “top-up” to the same level as the first-win bonuses awarded to PP’s in Classes One and Two should they progress that far up the ratings and win in the higher grades.

Total prizemoney for Hong Kong racing is now HK$705 million, but to give that figure some perspective it is only 70% of the club’s guaranteed HK$1 billion minimum annual allocation to the city’s charities.

The current Hong Kong season concludes with a public holiday meeting on Tuesday, July 1, where daily betting turnover will break the HK$1 billion barrier for the ninth time this season.

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