The Paulick Report is in Hong Kong for an important week that culminates with the world-class Hong Kong International Races on Sunday. But there are other festivities surrounding the main event at Sha Tin. Wednesday at Happy Valley Racecourse, a dozen top jockeys battled in a four-race competition for the Longines International Jockeys' Championship.
Australia's Kerrin McEvoy took home the top prize after a close battle that included Americans Mike Smith and Gary Stevens. You'll find more on the results below, but Paulick Report Editor-in-Chief Scott Jagow was on hand to bring us video highlights of an evening celebrating the human athletes who make international racing so thrilling to watch.
The LONGINES International Jockeys' Championship could arguably boast the best dozen jockeys ever assembled for this competition at Happy Valley and indeed anywhere in the world. The jockeys had ridden in excess of 24,000 winners between them but it was just one race that decided this great championship. The 2013 Championship fully lived up to its lofty expectations with the title going right down to the wire in the fourth leg, with five jockeys in with a chance of securing at least a share of the title.
Kerrin McEvoy got his evening off to the best possible start when producing a masterly ride from the front on the 26-1 longshot Home With Glory to land the 1st Leg of the Championship, keeping enough up his sleeve to hold off the challenges of the favourite Winning Mascot (Suguru Hamanaka) and Redwood Baby under Ryan Moore, who was outpaced early but finished with real purpose to get up for third.
Christophe Soumillon struck for Belgium in the second leg, taking a leaf out of the McEvoy book, riding Flying Chaparral from the front. He broke alertly from Gate 8 and never relinquished that position, easily repelling all challengers on the 3.1-1 favorite. In the process he provided a double for trainer Francis Lui, who had also saddled first leg winner Home With Glory.
Soumillon said: “This was my best shot of the night. I was able to set the pace I wanted up front and he responded well. With the rides I have to come, and Kerrin (McEvoy) scoring more points, I might struggle to be better than third.” A correct prediction as it turned out.
Kerrin McEvoy was again amongst the points taking six for his second place finish aboard Expectator, while Mike Smith finished third for four points on the Danny Shum-trained Southern Springs. After two legs McEvoy led on 18 points from Soumillon on 12, Hamanaka on 6, with Smith and Moore on 4 points each.
Mirco Demuro moved into contention when driving out the Caspar Fownes-trained Fun ‘N' Games to take the third leg. Richard Hughes on second placed St Yazin and Zac Purton aboard third placed Rocket Let Win were both scoring their first points of the night. So going into the final leg McEvoy led on 18 points from Demuro and Soumillon on 12 each, with Hamanaka and Hughes on 6 points, and Moore, Smith and Purton on 4 points apiece. It was now all down to the crucial fourth leg.
In the final leg McEvoy finished out of the points, but, fortunately for him, so did Demuro and Soumillon his closest rivals, leaving the Australian in an unassailable position. Fellow Australian Zac Purton ran out the winner of the fourth leg on the Tony Cruz-trained favorite Majestic Anthem, from Maxime Guyon on the Caspar Fownes-trained Formula Won, with Ryan Moore on Great Charm back in third spot. Purton's win propelled him into second place on 16 points ahead of Christophe Soumillon in third place on countback, but clear on 18 points was the 2013 LONGINES International Jockeys' Championship winner Kerrin McEvoy.
The newly crowned LONGINES International Jockeys' Championship winner Kerrin McEvoy said: “I'm very delighted to have won this event, it's a great competition. There are some great names on this trophy, and to have my name on it too is a great thrill. I was on an outsider in the first leg, but he got a cheap lead and had enough kick to hold on. In the second I drew a nice gate, and was able to save energy for the final furlongs and getting points was a bonus. It's been a fantastic experience riding with such greats as Gary Stevens and Mike Smith, and I'm grateful to the Hong Kong Jockey Club for inviting me here, and I hope I can come again. I last rode at Happy Valley in 2004, but never rode a winner, so it was nice to put that right tonight.”
Commenting on the evening's Championship, HKJC Executive Director, Racing, William A Nader said: “It was a great night's racing, these are top class jockeys and they raced very competitively. I have no doubt it was the best International Jockeys' Championship that we have staged in the history of this event.”
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