The premier team competition in horseracing, The Blue Square Shergar Cup, pits jockeys from the UK and Ireland against their counterparts from the rest of the world at Ascot this weekend for the fifth time.
Twelve of the world’s leading jockeys battle it out during the course of six races, and points are awarded on a 15-10-7-5-3 basis to the first five horses home in each race.
The rivalry is likely to be more serious than ever, as the two captains, Frankie Dettori and Kieren Fallon, battle it out for superiority and for the prize of the silver saddle for the top jockey at Saturday’s meeting. The Italian and the Irishman are jostling for position as the season’s leading flat jockey.
The two teams currently stand at two titles a piece, although neither has ever managed to successfully defend the title, and while the Rest of the World team, who won last year, will be keen to break that record, the UK and Ireland team will be going all out to ensure that they finish ahead.
The competition is a popular event for all concerned, with no entry fees for runners but prize money paid down to the last place, so that owners are guaranteed to cover their costs. Jockeys earn not only a percentage of the prize money, but an extra £100 bonus for every point won. There is also a cash bonus for the leading trainer at the meeting.
Trainer Mark Johnston is strongly represented, with a potential 10 runners, and with names such as Richard Hannon, Andrew Balding and Martin Pipe featuring on the card, this is no cakewalk.
The event is not happening next year due to the redevelopment of Ascot racecourse and the logistics of staging the event away from Ascot would be complicated, according to Ascot’s chief executive, Douglas Erskine-Crum. The racecourse has emphasised its commitment to the event, which is due to return “bigger and better” in 2006.