Turning world-class: Hong Kong racing goes global
Carlos Wu: “From the United States, to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, winners of Group 1 races now come to compete in Hong Kong.”
“The Hong Kong International Races is a truly international event today,” says Carlos Wu, veteran horse racing commentator. “From the United States, to the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, winners of Group 1 races now come to compete in Hong Kong.” Hong Kong’s inexorably growing status in world racing over the past few decades has made Carlos proud.
The LONGINES Hong Kong International Races (HKIR) is an annual highlight in the local racing calendar. Every December, except in 2021 due to the pandemic, the extravaganza pits Hong Kong’s equine heroes against top horses from around the globe in the Hong Kong Cup, Mile, Sprint and Vase.
The history of the HKIR can be traced back to the first Hong Kong Invitation Cup in 1988. “Back then, Hong Kong had to take care of all the expenses for overseas runners,” Carlos, who is also Chairman of The Association of Hong Kong Racing Journalists, recalls. “The first Invitation Cup only had overseas runners from Singapore and Malaysia.”
In the years that followed, Hong Kong racing came on in leaps and bounds. The Hong Kong Invitation Cup was renamed the Hong Kong Cup and staged as an Group 1 race in 1999. Both the Hong Kong Vase and Hong Kong Mile were upgraded to Group 1 the following year, before the Hong Kong Sprint received the same status in 2002.
Carlos explains that a race can only achieve Group 1 status if it meets a set of strict criteria. Besides high prize money, the average rating for the first four finishers in the race must hit 115 or above. The race will also need to have several years of history behind it, be run at the same time each year, and keep the same name throughout. Now celebrated as the “World Turf Championships”, it was a huge milestone for all four HKIR races to achieve Group 1 status.
For the past 44 years, Carlos has witnessed first-hand the evolution of Hong Kong racing. The ever-increasing prize money has no doubt attracted superstars from around the world to run in Hong Kong, but Carlos also attributes the success to the Club’s global vision.