Local stars Zac Purton and Keith Yeung are eagerly anticipating Wednesday's spectacular LONGINES International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley even though neither is necessarily brimming with confidence about their prospects of winning the title.
Purton holds a commanding 20 win lead in the Hong Kong jockeys' premiership and is in rare form but is taking a realistic view about his chances against a line-up of jockeys, which boasts more than 24,000 winners worldwide and may well be the best ever assembled at one racecourse.
“It looks like I have a mixed bag but you never know. I probably had a better book of rides last year and couldn't get it done but what's on paper is not always everything in racing. It's great to be part of it and ride against some legends of the game,” said Purton.
“The competition's tough and if I can win one (race), I'll be pretty happy,” said Purton who was runner-up on debut in the 2012 LONGINES IJC after he'd won the World Super Jockeys Series in Japan.
Young gun Keith Yeung competes in the series for the first time and is naturally eager to do well on such a grand stage. “I'm not sure if I can win it but it is really exciting to be riding against the best jockeys in the world,” he said.
Perennial Hong Kong champion Douglas Whyte, a three-time winner of the LONGINES IJC, completes the line-up of local riders. Three of Whyte's mounts have drawn favourably with inside gates and the Durban Demon can never be discounted.
The IJC line-up includes the evergreen British champion jockey Richard Hughes who will be hoping to cap an already stellar year with victory in the LONGINES sponsored challenge.
And he arrives in winning form having claimed the World Super Jockeys Series at Hanshin in Japan on Sunday. Hughes has won nine Group 1 races this year including his first two British Classic victories and success at the Breeders' Cup.
The legendary USA riders Mike Smith and Gary Stevens also come to Hong Kong fresh from Breeders' Cup successes. Smith is the all-time leader in Breeders' Cup wins and took his total to 20 with three successes at the meeting in November. Stevens snared a double, including a first win in the Classic, at the BC meeting to take his Breeders' Cup tally to 10 wins.
Stevens, at 50, is the oldest of the 12 competing jockeys while Maxime Guyon (24), Japan's Suguru Hamanaka (24) and Hong Kong's Yeung (25) are the youngest.
Add the names of Kerrin McEvoy, Christophe Soumillon, Mirco Demuro and Ryan Moore and race fans are promised an unparalleled standard of horsemanship on Wednesday 4 December.
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