James McDonald and Rachel King will represent Australia in Hong Kong for the International Jockeys Challenge.
Two Australian jockeys represent in Hong Kong
- Eight races make up the International Jockeys’ Championship
- Four races at Happy Valley on Wednesday and four at Sha Tin on Sunday
- 12 runners in each race
- James McDonald and Rachel King at the Australian representatives
James McDonald has plenty of experience riding in Hong Kong, on a sojourn there while the Australian racing is on a quiet spell. This is a massive opportunity for Rachel King to show her talents on a world stage and represent Australia while she does it.
There are 12 jockeys from across the world at the International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley and Sha Tin this week. The eight-race event provides a ride in each race with a scoring basis deciding who lands the prize as the top jockey with the prices up on the betting sites for the first four.
2023 is the usual great mix of locals and visitors. Australian jockeys have a rich history in this event. Hugh Bowman, Damien Oliver and Kerrin McEvoy have all won this event once, while Zac Purton has been the champion on three occasions.
Having ridden in Group 1’s the world over and with experience in Hong Kong, it’s fair to think that McDonald would be one of the favourites to take the overall glory this week. He had the winning ride on Romantic Warrior in the Hong Kong Cup on the Sunday last year, although he is representing New Zealand.
He finished in a tie for second in this event in 2021 and 2011 and finished third in 2014, so he is due a year when he finally gets to sit on top of the pile. His rides at Happy Valley on Wednesday look like a few roughies and one with a chance in race eight, so he is going to have to pull a few rabbits out of the hat to put himself in a strong position for the weekend.
A first visit to the meeting for the 33-year-old, who signed off in good form at Hawkesbury on Sunday with two winners on the card. Her 21 winners this season include a pair at Group 1 level. Of course, King was not born in Australia, but she has been adopted here as a safe pair of hands.
Like McDonald, her Wednesday rides are on the roughie side, but she was runner-up in a similar event in Japan in August. The World All-Stars Jockeys series was that contest, an experience which will stand her in good stead now.
Triple champion Purton is a local hero, having been riding in Hong Kong for more than 15 years and claiming the champion jockey title on six occasions. We occasionally see him in Australia, taking a few rides at the spring carnival with one win. A couple of half chances are on the board on day one with a pair of roughie rides to accompany them, but few of these jockeys have the pedigree that Purton does here.
Others taking part
The power couple of British racing, Tom Marquand and Hollie Doyle, are in action at the event. Marquand tied for the win last year with 12 points, while Doyle has twice finished 3rd, including in 2020 when she became the first female jockey to ride a winner at the event.
Ryan Moore has eight wins at this championship, winning in 2010. He was also runner-up in 2015, 2016, and 2019. Moore has the shortest-priced favourite on the opening day, with M Unicorn a 1.8 chance to salute in race five.
There is a bit of a divide regarding these events on the world stage. Some love to see jockeys from different jurisdictions in action, while others are not fans of what can come off as a bit of a gimmick. Whatever side you stand on, we can all cheer on our Australian jockeys.