In terms of both quantity and quality, this year’s Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races have attracted a terrific range of entries from all over the world. The Hong Kong Jockey Club has received 322 first nominations, including 79 individual Gr.1 winners, for the December 10 extravaganza at Sha Tin.

Twenty-six of the world’s top 40 turf horses are present in the initial entries and they incorporate the world’s top-ranked miler and sprinter (George Washington, Takeover Target) and the best females (Ouija Board, Pride). “The list of nominations for this year’s Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races is exceptional and very much worthy of the Turf World Championships,” said Mr Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Executive Director of Racing. “We have significantly raised prize-money levels and increased the distance of the Sprint to lure the best in the world to Hong Kong and the response has been very positive. We believe these changes have resulted in a better balance to the nominations and we are really looking forward to presenting to the world a special race meeting that promises to be our best ever.”

Highlight nominations for CXHKIR 2006:

Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint (HK$12m – US$1.6m – Gr.1 – 1200m) – Increasing the Sprint’s distance to 1200m from 1000m has had the desired effect with much stronger international entries – 17 Gr.1 winners in total and Takeover Target tops the bill. The Aussie phenomenon will earn a US$1m bonus should he prove successful at Sha Tin having already won the Lightning, King’s Stand and Sprinters Stakes in Australia, England and Japan respectively this year. Takeover Target can expect to face Silent Witness, winner of this event in 2003 and 2004, last year’s victor Natural Blitz, Les Arcs, winner of the Golden Jubilee Stakes and July Cup and the Centaur Stakes winner from Japan, She Is Tosho.

Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase (HK$14m – US$1.8m – Gr.1 – 2400m) – Ouija Board, also entered in the Cup, has the Vase as her preferred option. This is the race she won last year in such devastating fashion. This will be the hugely popular British mare’s third run in Hong Kong and the final race of a brilliant career. The Club has received entries for 24 Gr.1 victors, amongst them Better Talk Now, a Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, Kastoria, recently successful in the Irish St Leger and Europe’s best three-year-old fillies in Mandesha and Alexandrova.

Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (HK$16m – US$2.1m– Gr.1 – 1600m) – The world’s richest event over the classic turf mile features 2000 Guineas and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner George Washington – he is also the highest-rated of the nominations for the four races. There are a total 21 Gr.1 winners nominated for the Mile, including Godolphin’s Librettist, Sussex Stakes winner Court Masterpiece, Racing To Win, a four-time Gr.1 scorer in Sydney, and New Zealand’s excellent duo, Darci Brahma and Seachange. But these stars will need to be at their brilliant best to master Bullish Luck, Hong Kong’s Horse of the Year and winner of two legs of the Asian Mile Challenge this year.

Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup (HK$20m – US$2.6m – Gr.1 – 2000m) – The world’s richest turf event over 2000m has entries from 27 Gr.1 winners, including Dylan Thomas, the Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes hero. Aragorn and Lava Man have won their last ten races between them (six at Gr.1 level) and are the highest-rated turf horses in the US. Also present are Notnowcato who won the Juddmonte International, El Segundo who recently took the Underwood Stakes in Melbourne and Pride, runner-up both in this race last year to local champion Vengeance Of Rain and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe last week. Irridescence, successful in the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup in April, is also being primed for a return to Hong Kong where many believe Viva Pataca can keep the prize at home for a second year.

“We are delighted to have so many terrific nominations from all over the world and now the challenge is to have them participating in the Turf World Championships in December,” Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges summed up.

“It is also very satisfying that where 12 months ago the Sprint drew entries from just five Gr.1 winners, this year we have 17.”