Trim jockey Colin Keane is one of 12 world class riders ready for action in the LONGINES International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley tomorrow.
The Meath man is making his debut at this level and the prizefund is a substantial HK$500,000 out of the overall HK$800,000 for the rider with the most points from the four-race contest.
Keane is the only newcomer this year among the world class line-up of international riders that includes Ryan Moore, Javier Castellano, Hugh Bowman and Yutaka Take among others.
He will be bidding to follow in the footsteps of another Meath man, Johnny Murtagh, who was the Irish champion jockey when he won the IJC title in 2009.
The opposition will be tough and features the likes of Zac Purton, who heads the Hong Kong Jockeys' Championship again after his thrilling victory over Joao Moreira to reclaim the premiership last season.
The Aussie riding hero also won the LONGINES IJC on this day last year despite being an outsider.
"I didn't think I'd win it last year and I have to say I think I'll struggle again. Hughie will probably put me to the sword," suggested Purton.
"Hughie" is of course Hugh Bowman who boasts more than 2,000 career victories, and whose 28 wins from 29 rides on Aussie superstar mare Winx have propelled him into racing folklore.
AT THE LAUNCH EARLIER TODAY
For his part, Bowman - who won the IJC in 2016 - was more buoyant than Purton at today's press conference.
"I've drawn some decent horses and I'm feeling more confident than this time last year," he said.
Local rider Vincent Ho is aware of the incredible riding talent that he will encounter in the challenge.
The Hong Kong champion apprentice in 2010/2011 also joined the other riders in expressing their appreciation of being selected to participate in this event.
"I've worked very hard these past couple of seasons and I hope I can do my supporters justice on Wednesday," said Ho.
And the 28-year-old, who made a winning British debut for trainer Mark Johnston during a short stint there this summer, also added a hint of confidence with his observation: "I seem to have some good rides."
Ho is participating for the second time while fellow Hong Kong local Matthew Poon, having only recently ridden out his apprentice claim, is making his IJC debut, as is the 2017 Irish Champion jockey Colin Keane.
Hong Kong's high-flying Mauritian Karis Teetan will take his place, as will Silvestre de Sousa, British champion jockey for a third time this year and also currently based in Hong Kong.
Others in the stellar line-up, Bowman and Purton, among them, have experienced the thrill of winning this championship event.
Also on the illustrious honour roll is Ryan Moore, a two-time winner; iconic Japanese ace Yutaka Take; and Christophe Lemaire, Japan's champion jockey.
By contrast, Javier Castellano finished plum last on his only previous IJC experience back in 2006 but the US-based star has experienced a quite fantastic 2018, including passing the 5,000-winner mark, and riding two Breeders' Cup winners at Churchill Downs in November.
But Castellano's memory of that previous Happy Valley outing remains a powerful one:
"I've never seen such passionate fans and it was an amazing experience. This time I have some good draws and hopefully I can have a bit of luck," said Castellano.
Hong Kong is eight hours ahead of Irish time
The Club’s Chief Executive Officer Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges; Mr. Andrew Harding, Executive Director, Racing; Mr. William A Nader, Director of Racing Business and Operations and jockeys pose for a group photo today.
Front row from left:
Mickael Barzalona (France), Javier Castellano (USA), Vincent Ho Chak-yiu (Hong Kong), Christophe Lemaire (Japan), Matthew Poon Ming-fai (Hong Kong), Yutaka Take (Japan), Karis Teetan (Hong Kong), Zac Purton (Hong Kong), Ryan Moore (Britain), Colin Keane (Ireland), Silvestre de Sousa (Britain), Hugh Bowman (Australia); back row seventh from left: Mr. Andrew Harding, Mr. Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges and Mr. William A Nader.