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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 16:24 GMT


Shergar Cup competition unveiled

Shergar wins the 1981 Derby at Epsom

The element of team competition, hitherto confined to well-meaning but uncompelling international jockeys' challenges, will form the cornerstone of racing's latest innovation, the Shergar Cup.

The Cup, a six-race card to be staged for the first time at Goodwood on May 8 next year, takes its inspiration from golf's Ryder Cup.

But whereas the little white ball pitches Europe in opposition to the United States, this time the "enemy" will be the Middle East.

Team captains for the event, named in honour of the 1981 Derby winner, are arguably the two most influential men on turf racing in Europe and beyond for the past two decades, Robert Sangster (Europe) and Sheikh Mohammed (Middle East).

The venture, organised by International Management Group, is the brainchild of British Horseracing Board chairman Peter Savill, who chaired the press conference in the Churchill Hotel, Portman Square.

"Racing has always allowed us to spectate, participate and socialise," he said. "But it has lacked team competition.

"This exciting new event will help bring to racing the dynamism and interest of international team competition. It has the potential to establish itself in equivalent terms with golf's Ryder Cup."

The meeting is comprised of a six-furlong race for three-year-olds, contests over a mile and a mile and a half for fillies of four and upwards, seven and 10-furlong heats for four-year-old-plus colts and geldings, and a 0-110 handicap over a mile and three-quarters.

Team captains will be solely responsible for team selection, which must be made by March 1, with the eligibility of horses being determined by their ownership as of January 1, 1999, March 1 and at starting, with ownership remaining constant on all three dates.

The six-furlong race and the handicap will carry 50,000 each, while the other four will be worth 100,000. All prize money will come from sponsorship.

Points will be awarded down to sixth place, with the winner receiving 15 points, the runner-up 10, the third seven, fourth-placed horse five points, fifth-placed three and the sixth horse one point.

Each race will have a field of 10, with six horses initially selected for each team, one from each acting as reserve.

The Shergar Cup, which will be shown live on the BBC's Grandstand, takes place on a relatively light Saturday for European racing, on which the Lingfield Derby Trial - which is set to be moved in future - the only Group race to be staged throughout the continent.

While the owners' silks determine who races for whom, there is a requirement for some passport forging among those who will be asked to wear them.

In a coup that would make even the Irish football team, famous for poaching those players with even the palest emerald connection, green with envy, the Middle East, who will enjoy first pick of their riders, are to secure the services of Lanfranco Dettori, an Italian, and Richard Hills, an Englishman.

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