Espinoza joins stellar cast for International Jockeys’ Championship

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TwinSpires Staff

November 18th, 2015

Edited Press Release

Lafitt Pincay Jr. & Victor Espinoza photo courtesy of Benoit Photos

A stellar selection of the world's finest jockeys will take to Happy Valley Racecourse's floodlit arena on Wednesday, December 9, to battle for supremacy and the prime share of HK$800,000 in the 2015 LONGINES International Jockeys' Championship (IJC).

Eight international stars will compete alongside four of Hong Kong's elite squad of jockeys in the annual four-race showpiece that rewards the outright champion with a first prize of HK$500,000. With HK$200,000 to the runner-up and HK$100,000 to the third-placed rider, the LONGINES IJC is the most lucrative jockeys' competition in the world.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) has once again assembled a bill-topping cast for this year's competition.

Ryan Moore, the inaugural LONGINES World's Best Jockey Award recipient, a three-time U.K. champion jJockey and the winner of 65 global Group 1 races, will attempt to claim a third triumph at his ninth IJC appearance.

Victor Espinoza returns 12 years after a debut second placing in the 2003 IJC and he does so as an American legend, having partnered the brilliant American Pharoah to a rare U.S. Triple Crown triumph this year. They also landed America's richest race, the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), in late October.

Brazilian ace Silvestre De Sousa makes his LONGINES IJC debut fresh from a well-deserved crowning as the U.K.'s champion jockey, while the brilliant Gavin Lerena is another first-time champ making his IJC debut, having clinched the South African champion jockey title earlier this year.

Hugh Bowman, one of Australia's finest riders, heads to the IJC for a second time as Sydney's champion jockey, a title he has won three times. Bowman's predecessor as Sydney champ, the outstanding Kiwi James McDonald, also has three premierships to his name, with two achieved in his native New Zealand sitting alongside that 2013/14 Sydney title.

Japan's Keita Tosaki was the JRA's outstanding rider in 2014 and he currently has a strong chance of being crowned champion for a second time this year. The former four-time NAR champion is the third of this year's three IJC debutants.

Completing the exceptional international contingent is Maxime Guyon, one of the world's finest big occasion riders. The French star has contested the IJC twice previously and is a popular face in Hong Kong thanks to his Hong Kong Derby win on Ambitious Dragon and last December's Hong Kong Vase (HK-G1) triumph atop Flintshire.

"This is an outstanding selection of some of the world's very best jockeys, which is something we have come to expect at the LONGINES IJC, an occasion well-established as one of world racing's greatest nights,” said William A Nader, the Hong Kong Jockey Club's executive director of racing. “The LONGINES IJC is quite possibly the most intense and competitive jockeys' competition anywhere in the world.

"We are delighted with the caliber of riders we have this year. Five of the total 12 jockeys due to contest the IJC are incumbent champions of their respective jurisdictions and all are world elite riders. The quality we have this year certainly befits the occasion and this time around it's especially great that we have Victor Espinoza, a man whose name is now written in racing legend thanks to American Pharoah's Triple Crown win."

This year's LONGINES IJC will feature four jockeys from Hong Kong's excellent pool of locally-based talent. The 2012 IJC victor, Joao Moreira, will take his place thanks to his status as Hong Kong's current champion jockey.

With Moreira well clear in this season's jockey standings, the next two places will go to the riders positioned second and third in the premiership table at the close of the cut-off date, Wednesday, November 25.

The fourth opening will go to Hong Kong's leading homegrown jockey (a graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Apprentice Jockeys' School) according to the standings on the above date.

"One notable change to this year's IJC is that we have one more Hong Kong-based rider than in the past,” Nader said. “This reflects the depth of quality we have in the Hong Kong jockey ranks, a fact emphasized considering riders like Zac Purton, Douglas Whyte, Brett Prebble and Karis Teetan are battling to secure the two available places."

The 2015 LONGINES IJC is a four-race competition in which the following points will be given to each jockey according to the placing of his mount, and the ranking of each jockey will be determined by the total number of points earned in the four races:

12 points for 1st; 6 points for 2nd; 4 points for 3rd.

In the case of dead-heats for any of the first three placings, points will be added and then divided by the number of horses involved. The appropriate points will then be awarded to the relevant jockey. The count-back will be to 4th place.

After the opening of wagering in the Jockey Challenge, no substitute rides are eligible for points. In the LONGINES IJC competition, however, substitute jockeys are eligible for points and related prize money.

The IJC champion will be the jockey with the highest accumulated points.

(*Local jockeys with 2 or 3lb claims are eligible for selection for the LONGINES IJC. There will be no claiming allowance in the four LONGINES IJC races.)

List of invited jockeys for 2015 LONGINES IJC