HAPPY Valley will be the centre of attention in Hong Kong on Wednesday, when the inner-city track hosts its flagship event of the year, the LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship, worth around £50,000 to the rider who accumulates the most points in the four-race series.
With so much money at stake, it’s not surprising that some of the best jockeys in the world, including the likes of Ryan Moore, Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle from the UK, are lining up to do battle against their famous counterparts.
There is also an added bonus for the local trainers in the territory, with a £20,000 prize for the stable who accumulates the most points in the four races.
It looks like ‘King of the Valley’ Caspar Fownes and legendary Australian trainer David Hayes have ear-marked these races with multiple entries and will surely be disappointed if they leave the track empty handed.
Star Australian pilot Hugh Bowman, already making a big impact in Hong Kong since starting his short-term contract late last month, looks to be the lucky recipient, picking up rides for both trainers, following his last-minute inclusion into the IJC after the withdrawal of jockey Jye McNeil due to the dreaded Covid curse last weekend.
Bowman, a former winner of the IJC, has also been lucky with the allocation of low draw numbers for his two rides for Fownes and Hayes, and could be set for a successful afternoon.
Hayes and Bowman team up with FORTE, who makes his seasonal reappearance in the first leg of the LONGINES IJC Handicap (12.10pm) over five furlongs and is capable of defying top-weight.
The key to this six-year-old sprinter is that he shows his best form when fresh. He won on his debut back in 2020, and was placed first-up at Sha Tin last season.
He is yet to finish out of the first three in six runs against similar company and is now racing off a similar mark to when he was desperately unlucky over the course and distance in January.
With an inside draw of stall three a bonus (past records show starters from inside stalls have a decided advantage in five-furlong contests) his chance is obvious, and he must go close.
Half an hour later, Bowman climbs aboard the Caspar Fownes-trained ROYAL PRIDE in the second leg of the LONGINES IJC Handicap (12.40pm) over the extended mile.
This Australian-bred galloper has always been held in high regard by the stable, and finally came good when sprinting clear of the opposition over the course and distance last month.
That form was given a boost by the runner-up Legion Of Merit running well again at Sha Tin over the weekend.
Despite his penalty, he still looks in front of the handicapper and, with his inside draw alongside having a 25 percent win strike-rate over the extended mile in the last three seasons, Royal Pride has a clear-cut chance of winning again.
Forte 12.10pm Happy Valley
Royal Pride 12.40pm Happy Valley