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HKIR ‘one of the best – if not the best – days of racing’ the city has ever seen

Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has declared Sunday’s Longines Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) “one of the best – if not the best – days of racing” the city has ever seen.

Hong Kong’s three genuine superstars wowed the biggest HKIR crowd since before the pandemic and anti-government protests, with Golden Sixty showing he is still at his brilliant best in the Group One Hong Kong Mile and Romantic Warrior and Lucky Sweynesse producing stunning victories of their own.

“In my humble opinion, I’ve been here now for 25 years, and this was one of the best – if not the best – days of racing we have had in Hong Kong,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

“If I look at the situation after Covid, last year we had a good meeting, but today Hong Kong racing has established [itself] again on the global stage and has shown what sporting entertainment means.”

A bumper crowd watches Sunday’s Longines Hong Kong International Races.

Turnover fell a touch short of last year, reaching HK$1.68 billion, but a record figure wagered by punters offshore buoyed Engelbrecht-Bresges.

“We had a withdrawal, which cost us HK$30 million, but we nearly reached HK$1.7 billion, which is an amazing result. We are very proud that our product goes around the world, and it was a record [commingling] turnover for Hong Kong racing,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

“I think this shows what global racing is all about. This shows [what we can achieve] if we as a racing fraternity produce very interesting fields combined with the liquidity of the pools in Hong Kong.”

Attendance was 65,252 at the first truly open HKIR following the pandemic, and spectators witnessed Hong Kong horses win three of the four Group One races, with France’s Junko the sole successful international for Andre Fabre and Maxime Guyon while Japan went home empty handed.

Vincent Ho celebrates Golden Sixty’s Group One Longines Hong Kong Mile win.

Irish maestro Aidan O’Brien arrived with what he labelled his best-ever HKIR assault but had to settle for two placings, with Warm Heart finishing third behind Junko in the Group One Hong Kong Vase (2,400m) and Luxembourg running an enormous race for second behind Romantic Warrior in the Group One Hong Kong Cup (2,000m).

“When you look at the sporting performances, it was a fantastic win by Junko and Andre Fabre, who is one of the greatest supporters of Hong Kong racing,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said.

“We had a [Group One Hong Kong Sprint (1,200m)] where we had the best sprinter in the world [Lucky Sweynesse] establish himself after there was doubt.

“In the [Group One Hong Kong Mile], I have very seldom seen such a performance from a horse – an eight-year-old first time up drawn gate 14 – and it was an absolutely brilliant ride by Vincent [Ho Chak-yiu].

Jockey Club’s chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.

“There was a lot of doubt how it would play out, and it was a tactical masterpiece how the horse was positioned. When the horse accelerated, when you could hear the crowd cheering for the local champion, this was something which – in my view – was unforgettable.

“Then probably the most exciting 2,000m race I have seen this year. Similar to the Cox Plate, where you had really top horses fighting it out at the top of the straight. That a Hong Kong horse won is good, but when you look at the form of Luxembourg, again sporting wise, it was a fantastic performance.

“Especially I would like to thank the O’Brien stable, Ballydoyle, who has supported this meeting in an unprecedented way. They told us they will come back because next time they would like to win.

“This is sportsmanship. When you talk to Aidan, he says, ‘One of the reasons I put Luxembourg in this race is because I wanted to create one of the best 2,000m races in the world’.”


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