Updated on 09/15/2011 1:36PM

Dettori leads charge

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Frankie Dettori after winning the International Jockeys' Championship at Happy Valley.

HONG KONG - Frankie Dettori rose to the occasion at Happy Valley in Hong Kong on Wednesday night to capture the International Jockeys' Championship by a hair's breadth from Damien Oliver, the fast-closing Australian. The event launched the city's biggest week of racing, culminating in the Hong Kong International Races Sunday.

Dettori got up for fifth aboard Kindred Spirits in the third and final race of the contest to score the two points he needed to hold off Oliver, who rallied Lomond's Fay to edge Gary Stevens's mount, Indubitably Bliss, at the wire.

Dettori, who won the first race of the Championship on the 4-5 favorite Noble Boy, nipped Oliver by 16-15, with Olivier Peslier third and Stevens sixth in the 12-rider field. Stevens was unplaced on his first two rides, the longshots Wishes and Quick Steps.

Dettori's exertions earned him a first prize of 200,000 Hong Kong dollars, or $25,740 U.S. Dettori won the event for the second time. He also won the jockey championship of the Emirates World Series this year for the third time in its three-year history.

"It's a bit of fun tonight," Dettori said, "but I'm really looking forward to Sunday's big races at Sha Tin."

Dettori, the British-based Italian who is global racing's most visible jockey, will ride Tobougg, China Visit, and Ekraar in the Hong Kong Cup, Hong Kong Mile, and Hong Kong Vase respectively, three races worth $5.9 million.

Japanese looking to flex muscles

The Japanese, fresh from an impressive sweep of the Japan Cup and the Japan Cup Dirt in Tokyo three weeks ago, have come to Hong Kong with a firm resolve to repeat those successes at Sha Tin in the Hong Kong International Races on Sunday afternoon.

With a sharp four-furlong work on Wednesday morning, Agnes Digital served notice that he will give favorites Jim and Tonic and Silvano all they can handle in the Hong Kong Cup.

A 4-year-old son of Crafty Prospector, Agnes Digital will be seeking his third straight Group 1 win in the 1 1/4-mile Cup. Last out he beat T.M. Opera O in the Autumn Tenno Sho at the Cup distance. His good-looking move has led British bookmakers William Hill to quote him as 4-1 second choice behind the 3-1 Jim and Tonic.

Zenno El Cid, Irish-bred winner of the Mile Championship at Kyoto in October, looked equally sharp on Wednesday. Hills offers 7-1 on him in the Mile, with the locally trained Electronic Unicorn at 5-2, Forbidden Apple 4-1, Proudwings 5-1, and China Visit 7-1.

Stay Gold was a third Japanese-trained horse who caught the eye. Hills has installed him as the 5-2 favorite for the 1 1/2-mile Vase, in which defending champ Daliapour is 5-1 and the Neil Drysdale-trained White Heart 14-1.

Mile candidate Forbidden Apple galloped for Christophe Clement, but Nuclear Debate put in a serious three-furlong blowout for the Sprint, for which he is quoted at 11-2 behind the first two from last year's five-furlong dash, Falvelon (4-1) and the Randy Morse-trained Morluc (5-1).

Europeans may be overdressed

European horses looked like they might be out of their element in Hong Kong's 70-degree plus temperatures. Bach (Mile), Hawkeye (Cup), and The Trader (Sprint) have all grown their winter coats. Choc Ice, winner of the E.P. Taylor at Woodbine for trainer Robert Collet, is not only wearing her winter coat as she prepares for the Cup, but was also washed out and looked generally lethargic during her gallop.

The cool European autumn and the relatively early end of the European racing season could give the British, French, and Irish challengers a problem their rivals from the warmer climes of America, Japan, Australia, and Hong Kong will not have to deal with on Sunday.