Global Sprint Challenge with $1m bonus to continue despite quarantine row
The annual ten-race Global Sprint Challenge, which includes three events in Britain and offers a $1 million bonus if a horse can win in three of five different jurisdictions, will continue in 2018, despite a quarantine row over horses moving between Australia and Hong Kong.
Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources imposed a ban on direct movement from October 2, citing concerns over possible equine disease connected to the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s new training facility in mainland China, which is due to open in August next year.
The ban means horses from Hong Kong must undergo 180 days of quarantine in a third country – probably New Zealand – before competing in Australia, while horses from Australia cannot return directly if they race in Hong Hong.
The decision meant there was no runner from Australia in Hong Kong’s four international races last weekend. The event most notably affected was the Longines Hong Kong Sprint, the last leg of the Global Sprint Challenge, for which Hong Kong and Australia stage two races apiece throughout the year as natural targets for a horse being aimed at the bonus.
HKJC officials privately expressed some concerns about the immediate future of the Global Sprint Challenge under such conditions, but at a meeting of the organising committee last weekend it was decided to press on next year with unchanged criteria.
Britain, which stages the King’s Stand Stakes, Diamond Jubilee and July Cup as part of the series, was represented by Ascot’s director of racing and communications Nick Smith, who said: “The issues currently affecting transportation of horses between Australia and Hong Kong is in the hands of the respective governments.
"The racing authorities involved have, of course, provided all the assistance required and we are confident of a resolution, whilst conscious that these matters can take some time.”
Smith added: “In the meantime, the Global Sprint Challenge was never predicated on the expectation that horses would compete in all legs. It is not possible to run in Dubai and the first Japanese race, as they are too close together, for example.
“What the challenge does is offer numerous routes to the bonus. For the bonus to be won, only three wins in three separate countries is required.”
The series, first staged in 2005, has never had a bonus winner. Hong Kong-trained Aerovelocity seemed to be on target in 2015, after winning in Japan and Singapore (then part of the event), only to succumb to injury in the lead-up to the Hong Kong Sprint, which he had won the previous year.