Javier Castellano

The world’s best jockeys will compete for the Longines International Jockeys’ Championship in a spectacular night of racing at Happy Valley Dec. 5.

Hong Kong’s champion jockey Zac Purton lifted the coveted IJC trophy for the first time last year and is clear about where the event ranks on the world stage.

“I think it’s probably the strongest jockey’s competition out of all those around the world,” he said. “It’s certainly the most exciting one, being at Happy Valley under lights as part of international week.”

Purton heads the list of four Hong Kong-based jockeys who will take on eight of their very best counterparts from all over the globe in pursuit of bragging rights and the lion’s share of the HK$800,000 ($104,000) prize pool, which makes the four-race showcase at the iconic city track the world’s richest jockey challenge.

Seven of the eight overseas challengers have been champions in their home or adopted countries in recent years and all have proven their elite talents with big-race successes on the sport’s greatest stages.

They include Silvestre de Sousa, champion jockey in Britain for a third time this year, along with the 2017 champions of Ireland and Japan in Colin Keane and Christophe Lemaire respectively. Lemaire won this year’s JRA World All-Star Jockeys, while compatriot and fellow group 1 ace Mickael Barzalona brings further flair to the contest.

Also in the gilded line-up is global big-hitter, Ryan Moore, a three-time champion in Britain, two-time winner of the Longines World’s Best Jockey Award (2014 and 2016) and a dual IJC winner.

Legends of the sport in Japan’s Yutaka Take and Javier Castellano, from the United States, will also be making their way to Happy Valley. Take, who has ridden more than 4,000 winners, competes after a 12-year absence while Castellano recently notched his 5,000th win and is fresh from a double at the Breeders’ Cup.

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