Ascot racecourse has joined forced with the Japan Racing Association and Australia’s Racing Victoria Limited to launch the first international series for turf sprinters.

The Global Challenge Series will start in 2005 and will see six races run across three continents. The inspiration for the series came from seeing giant Australian sprinter Choisir win the King’s Stand Stakes and the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2003, according to Ascot spokesman Ian Welch. This prompted Ascot, the Japan Racing Association and Victoria Racing Limited to create a programme that would promote international competition for racehorses.

“At Ascot, it is our firm belief that racing is becoming a more international sport every year, and we are delighted to be playing our part in that,” says the Duke of Devonshire, who is the Queen’s representative and Chairman at Ascot. “This challenge puts in place a structure that further encourages competition across the continents for turf sprinters. We look forward to the first year of the Global Sprint Challenge with excitement and to building on the concept in the future.”

Runners in each race will be awarded points on a sliding scale – from 10 for the race winner to 2 for the fifth position and one point for all other starters. Horses competing outside their own racing jurisdictions — Victoria for Australia and New Zealand, Ascot for Europe and the United Arab Emirates, and Japan for Asia — will get double points.

The horse that has accumulated the highest number of points will win the series, so long as it has gained at least 30 points and has competed in at least two of the three participating countries.

Winning owners will be given a commemorative trophy at the end of the last qualifying race in which the winning horse runs, and will get an all-expenses-paid trip for two to the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes on De Beers Diamond Day, The Emirates Melbourne Cup and the Japan Cup, in 2006.

“While the series is in its inaugural stage, we’ll focus on the actual prestige of winning the challenge,” says Welch. “[But] the actual prize money that comes from each race is significant in its own right.”

The opening race of the Global Sprint Challenge Series will be the Group 1 TEAC Lightning Stakes, which will take place at Flemington, Australia, on 5 February 2005.

“It is with great excitement that Racing Victoria Limited looks forward to the commencement of the Global Sprint Challenge and we look forward to working with the Japan Racing Association and Ascot Racecourse in making the competition a great success,” says Chairman of Racing Victoria Limited, Graham Duff. “The Global Sprint Challenge will add a new dimension to our respective race meetings and will enhance the profile of our sprinters on a global scale.”

Ascot will host the two mid-series races, which, in a tribute to Choisir, will be Royal Ascot’s Group 2 King’s Stand Stakes and the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes. The Series will close with the Group 1 Sprinters’ Stakes at Nakayama in Japan on 2 October 2005.

“We believe this unique competition will add another dimension to the international racing scene where the best sprinters around the world will test their speed, versatility and courage. Top class thoroughbreds are a mutual treasure of the world,” says President of the Japan Racing Association, Masayuki Takahashi.

To encourage international participation, Ascot, Victoria and the Japan Racing Association will each help arrange travel for horses competing outside their home jurisdictions. Owners should negotiate any travel incentives directly with the host organisation and Welch let it be known that Ascot is “very, very keen” to contribute to travel expenses.

“We’ll all work very hard to encourage a horse who is doing very well in the challenge to travel to other countries throughout the season,” he said

The Global Sprint Challenge Calendar in 2005

Group 1 TEAC Lightning Stakes at Flemington, Australia — Saturday 5 February 2005§
Group 1 Timbercorp Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley, Australia — Saturday 19 February 2005
Group 2 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, York — Tuesday 14 June 2005
Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, York — Saturday 18 June 2005
Group 3 Centaur Stakes at Hanshin, Japan — Sunday 11 September 2005
Group 1 Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama, Japan — Sunday 2 October 2005