By Jenny Bridle

On Tuesday, ​Happy Valley Racecourse hosted the press conference for the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s International Jockeys Challenge. This is a truly signature event in the international calendar of racing and an integral part of International Race week here in Hong Kong. The Competition gets underway tonight at Happy Valley. ​With the current World’s Best Jockey, Ryan Moore, and many other champion jockeys — such as 13 time Hong Kong Champion Douglas Whyte, Hong Kong Champion Joao Moreira, Flat Champion Sylvestre De Sousa, US Triple Crown champion Victor Espinoza — all gathered together in one room, the atmosphere was downright magical even for non-hard core racing types.

Jockeys 2015

Hopefully, one could be forgiven for feeling like a bit of a rock star groupie while standing next to some of the true greats in our sport and taking bad photos with their phone.

Douglas Whyte

Ryan Moore

And let’s not forget there was a young Chinese jockey in the room, Derek Leung, who was one of the most promising apprentices in Hong Kong and is now riding with some of the best jockeys in the world. What a thrill it must be for him to participate in the Challenge. No doubt many racing fans would love it if he could ride a winner.

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Of course, there were also many professional journos and several bloggers​ at the presser, which was held at Adrenaline. This meant ​the atmosphere was more of a mixer and impromptu interviews took place here and there with many occurring outside on the ​balcony with the grandstand and Hong Kong skyline serving as the impressive backdrop.

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The event was emceed by the elegant and gracious Sarah Song

Sarah (1)

who placed a few jockeys on the spot during her brief requests for comments.

Sarah with Joao

​In the mix was American jockey Victor Espinoza who​, this yea​r​, rode American Pharaoh to the first US Triple Crown in 37 years. ​With appearances on the very cool and popular ​Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon​ as well as on Dances With The Stars, Victor seems to have become an old hand at public appearances​.

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​When interviewed at the press conference, ​Victor ​​told Sarah that he would happily dance if he wins the International Jockey Championship​ and, ​during the official introductions, demo’d his dance moves with HKJC CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges.

Victor and Winfried Dancing

A highlight of the day was the introduction of the Racing Ambassadors whose purpose is to “bring style to racing” while acting as representatives of each jockey’s country.

Models and Jockeys

Because it brought together rival jockeys the day before a major competition​,​ the press conference may have seemed a bit subdued: ​there was a sense of quiet determination, of getting into “the zone” from several jockeys ​in the room ​who​,​ no doubt​,​ were preparing for the next day. Still, this event was yet another example of how Hong Kong presents and promotes horse racing as an international​, world class sport that can have style, integrity and all the things that so many other racing jur​is​dictions are currently striving to achieve.​ While watching everyone chat with one another, from the jockeys themselves to the HKJC staff to the journalists and others, it also showed that,​ in Hong Kong, racing ​has the power to bring us together ​as people at a time when it ​can ​seem the world may need this most of all.

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Brett Prebble
Brett Prebble

Derek Leung
Derek Leung

Douglas Whyte
Douglas Whyte

Gavin Lerena
Gavin Lerena

Hugh Bowman
Hugh Bowman

James McDonald
James McDonald

Joao Moreira
Joao Moreira

Keita Tosaki
Keita Tosaki

Maxime Guyon
Maxime Guyon

Ryan Moore
Ryan Moore

Silvestre DeSousa
Silvestre DeSousa

Victor Espinoza
Victor Espinoza