Hong Kong International Races: Here’s What You Need to Know

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Among the celebrities on hand will be Eddie Peng, a Canadian and Taiwanese actor, singer and model who is also a Longines Ambassador of Elegance. (Longines has been the sponsor of the Hong Kong International Races since 2012.)

Humble Beginnings

The Hong Kong International Races started in January 1988. The Hong Kong Invitational Cup, staged as the first international contest in Hong Kong, was won by Flying Dancer for the home team.

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Sha Tin, established in 1978, is in the New Territories and can be reached easily by Kowloon Canton Railway, disembarking at its Racecourse Station.

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Mark Dadswell/Getty Images

The inaugural race was only open to entries from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. It carried a purse of about $190,000, just 5.9 percent of the Hong Kong Cup’s 2017 purse.

In 1989, Australia and New Zealand runners were allowed in the Cup, and by 1993 the race was opened to all comers. Then, in 1999, it was rebranded as the Hong Kong Cup and became the first race in Hong Kong to be given international Group 1 status, the highest in the sport. That year, the race was won by France’s Jim And Tonic.

What Came Next

The Hong Kong Cup remains the headline race of the event, but three other respected races have been added.

The first to join the Cup was the Hong Kong Mile, which was first held in 1991 to mark Hong Kong’s staging of the Asian Racing Conference. It began as the Hong Kong International Bowl and was won by Ireland’s Additional Risk. In 1999, when it gained international Group 1 status, is when it became the Hong Kong Mile.

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Foreign horses swept all four races in 2001, including Stay Gold, right, who won the Vase.

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Julian Herbert/ALLSPORT, via Getty Images

The Hong Kong Vase was added in 1994 as the Hong Kong International Vase. Like the first two races, it was rebranded in 1999, and in 2000 it gained Group 1 status. The Hong Kong Sprint completed the quartet of races in 1999 and got its Group 1 title in 2002. That was the final change to the existing format, and any additional races are unlikely.

Home and Away

This year marks the 31st running of the Hong Kong International Races, and nearly 1,250 horses from 17 countries/regions have taken part over the last three decades. From 1989, when New Zealand’s Grey Invader won the Cup at odds of 72/1, which remains the longest price of any winner, to Tony Cruz being the only horseman to win both as a trainer and as a jockey, there has been much to delight the crowds.

A sampling of headlining names through the years include Silent Witness, Able Friend, Good Ba Ba, Lord Kanaloa, Maurice, Snow Fairy, Fantastic Light, Alexander Goldrun, Red Cadeaux, Ouija Board and Highland Reel.

On such an international day of racing, there is a good deal of local pride on the line. From that perspective, 2001 was a bad year, as it is the only one in which foreign horses won all four races. The Japanese trio of Stay Gold (Vase), Eishin Preston (Mile), and Agnes Digital (Cup) were joined by Australia’s Falvelon (Sprint).

Over all, France has produced more winners in the Hong Kong International Races than any other overseas jurisdiction with 14 victories, 10 of which came in the Vase. The United Kingdom and Japan are a joint second, with 12 wins apiece. Hong Kong runners have won 37 times.

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