United States-based rider Cornelio Velasquez finished far out in front of the competition in the Jockey Club of Turkey International Jockeys Challenge staged July 11 in Istanbul. Velasquez, who had mounts in all four of the challenge races at Veliefendi, scored one win, two seconds and a sixth to finish with 35 points. High scores by teammates Mickael Barzalona riding for France and Umberto Rispoli helped boost the visitors team, which included Japan's Yuga Kawada, to a total 94 points, which put them over the home team's 82 for the team championship.
Kawada had only three mounts in the series, from which he gained fifth, sixth, and seventh-place performances for a lean 5-point total. The Ritto-based Kawada finished in ninth place overall for points.
The 26-year-old Kawada expressed his disappointment over his placing, saying, "The team of riders from overseas won overall, but it was really only because of the points scored by the top three. The fact that I wasn't able to do anything really irritates me," he said. "Not having the right trip and no luck whatsoever is still no excuse for results like these. I'll try my best and try to have some good news soon after I return to France," Kawada said ending on an upbeat note. Yuga Kawada
Germany's Andrasch Starke fared even worse than Kawada. Starke failed to score any points from his three rides and ended with only 2 points for his one race without a mount.
Ahmet Celik, Turkey's top rider and runnerup in last year's challenge, had a personal 24 points from one win, a third and a eighth. Celik tied with Halis Karatas for top points among the Turkish riders.
The 10 jockeys, five from Turkey and five from abroad, competed as teams as well as individuals. They were split into two teams – the home team and the visitors team. The home team also included Erhan Yavuz, Nurettin Sen and Ugur Polat.
The challenge consisted of four races run at half-hour intervals on Wednesday evening in Istanbul. Two of the races were run over turf and two on an artificial surface. First in the series was the fifth race on the day's card, a 1,400-meter turf race staged at 7:30 p.m. Only five runners took part in the race, won by Celik aboard Reign of Fire. Kawada finished last aboard the 5-year-old Wild Avalanche, who was carrying 58 kg, 2 kg more than the winner.
The second leg, a 1,900-meter turf event for 3-year-olds, was won by Karatas aboard Virtues Champ. Sen scored second aboard Adrikan. Kawada had no mount. Velasquez captured the third leg (3-year-olds, 1,400 meters on Polytrack) partnered with Final Road, with Rispoli in second aboard the filly Binbir Umut. Kawada finished in sixth place with Kazuma.
At the top of the final leg, a 1,600-meter race on the artificial surface, Velasquez was leading Rispoli by 3 points. Velasquez, however, scored a second-place finish in the final aboard Greys Anatomy behind Barzalona on Step by Step, a result that gave Velasquez a solid win of the challenge with an 8-point margin. Barzalona finished in second place overall with 27 points and Rispoli finished in third place with 25 points.
Challenge points were allocated according to finishing order in the races, with 15 for first place, 10 for second place, seven points for third, five for fourth, and three points for fifth place. Top prize was 4,000 euros for the winner, 2,000 euros for the runnerup and 1,000 euros for the third-place jockey.
The winning team took home 4,000 euros, 800 euro per member. All participants also received a special appearance fee of 4,000 euros as well as 10 percent of the prize money for each placing in the races. The races comprising the challenge carried top prizes of 28,000 Turkish Lira (12,135 euros), 11,200 TL (4,852 euros) for second place, 5,600 TL (2,426 euros) for third and 2,800 TL (1,213 euros) for fourth place
Veliefendi Racecourse is located in Istanbul's Zeytinburnu district. It is the country's oldest and biggest racecourse.