By Bob Kieckhefer
truly unforeseen, the Global Sprint Challenge will go unclaimed for another
You're not aware of the Global Sprint Challenge? That's a shame but not a
surprise, especially if you live in North America, which is not represented in
For the record,
the GSC offers a US$1 million bonus to the connections of any horse that can
win three legs of the 10-race series. The catch is, those victories have to
come in three different racing jurisdictions. Since three of the races are in
England and two in Australia, it takes some planning to get the brass ring.
It used to be even
harder. Until the rules were changed a few years ago, races in a horse's home
jurisdiction didn't count. Despite the slight easing of conditions -- and
despite the brilliance of globetrotting sprinters like Lucky Nine, Lord
Kanaloa, Black Caviar and Slade Power -- the prize remains unclaimed.
It could have
been within reach this year for Lucky Nine, the Hong Kong-based sprinter who
won the fourth leg of the series, the 1 KrisFlyer Sprint (Sing-I) at Kranji in
Singapore on May 18. Trainer Caspar Fownes had planned to take Lucky Nine to
Japan for the Sprinters Stakes (Jpn-I) on Oct. 5, then return home for the 1
Longines Hong Kong Sprint (HK-I) on Dec. 14.
That plan came a
cropper when Fownes frowned on the quarantine facilities at Niigata, where the
Sprinters Stakes is being run this year while the regular site, Nakayama, is
undergoing renovation. While praising the Japan Racing Association for its
spirit of cooperation, Fownes said he had been unable to secure suitable
stabling for his star.
"Plan B," he told the South China Morning Post, "We'll just have to stay home and concentrate on
having the old boy perfect for December here at Sha Tin."
Slade Power won two of the
three British legs of the series -- the Diamond Jubilee (Eng-I) at Royal Ascot
on June 21 and the Darley July Cup (Eng-I) at Newmarket On July 12. Of course,
only one counts toward the GSC's three wins. Trainer Eddie Lynam said the 5-year-old
is headed for the Darley Classic (Aus-I) at Flemington on Nov. 5 but, rather
than going for the hat trick in Hong Kong, currently is headed for the breeding
shed after the Australian race.
Sole Power won the King's Stand
(Eng-I) at Royal Ascot on June 17 and, while a 5-furlong specialist, did finish
second to the great Lord Kanaloa in last December's Longines Hong Kong Sprint
(HK-I) -- albeit 5-lengths second. He looks unlikely for the last two stops on
this year's GSC tour.
What's wrong with this picture?
First, there's the schedule and
the choice of venues. The series opens in mid-February in Flemington -- not a
location likely to attract many top international runners, especially when
Black Caviar was lurking there for the past few years. This year's winner is
named Snitzerland. The second leg was the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) at
Meydan. The third was just one day later -- the Group 1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen
(Jpn-I) at Chukyo in Japan.
Cross off the February race
Down Under and pick one from the late March races. Win one of those, then
travel to England and win any one of three legs there. But remember, only one
leg per jurisdiction counts for the bonus. And there are plenty of other choice
sprint targets in the UK, including a third to be added next year at Royal
Ascot. Then it's on to Japan? Australia? Hong Kong?
Clearly, it COULD be done if
the prize were seen worth the effort and risk. Black Caviar, for example, won
the Lightning and the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 but, after the torturous trip to
England, wasn't about to risk her unbeaten record by traveling again. That was
the American Triple Crown, this is not intended to be easy but rather it is
recognition of great achievement at the highest level," said Bill Nader,
Executive Director of Racing for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. "It will most
certainly continue in 2015 and add to the residual value of any horse able to
And Leigh Jordan,
speaking on behalf of the series, argued it already has been a success in terms
of horses traveling internationally, even if the prize has yet to be claimed.
year in Australia, we will see Europe's champion 1,200-meter horse, Slade Power, running
at Flemington," Jordan noted. "Over 50 horses trained outside Europe
have run at Royal Ascot since the challenge began in 2005.
never been structured as a formal competition -- more an industry-focused
promotional tool -- although we would expect the bonus to be won sooner or
later and that would no doubt focus some more mainstream attention on the
challenge," Jordan said.
It's obvious the US$1 million
bonus -- $750,000 to the owner, $250,000 to the trainer -- isn't motivating
participation, even with the offer of "contributions toward the cost of
transport" for runners. More money would help. Some jurisdictions have
experimented with a supplemental bonus for their sprints. Or, is Longines
It would be nice, too, to have
an American race in the mix. But the logical candidate, the Breeders' Cup Turf
Sprint, would conflict with the Darley Classic. Anyway, it would be unrealistic
to expect Breeders' Cup to surrender any autonomy to an international
agreement. Mid-August is an open date in the GSC schedule and a turf sprint
added to Arlington Park's International Festival of Racing would be a good fit.
But Illinois racing is in such dire straits that any expansion appears
Jordan said the GSC is, in
fact, in negotiations with potential sponsors and has had applications from
other nations to join, "all
of which is very positive for the future and all of which we are
International competition clearly is the cream of Thoroughbred racing and, if
promoted properly and supported more generously, might stir up a lot more
general interest for the sport -- interest that could be channeled down to more
involvement in day-to-day racing.
Here's the 2014 Global Sprint
Challenge schedule, with winners of the seven races already run, all Group 1
Feb. 15, Flemington, Black
Caviar Lightning: Snitzerland
March 29, Meydan, Dubai Golden
Shaheen: Sterling City
March 30, Chukyo,
Takamatsonomiya Kinen: Copano Richard
May 18, Kranji, KrisFlyer
International Sprint: Lucky Nine
June 17, Royal Ascot, King's
Stand: Sole Power
June 21, Royal Ascot, Diamond
Jubilee: Slade Power
July 12, Newmarket, Darley July
Cup: Slade Power
Oct. 5, Niigaga, Sprinters
Nov. 8, Flemington, Darley
Dec. 14, Sha Tin, Longines Hong
Kong Sprint: ---