A training setback has halted plans to send Morluc to Hong Kong for the $1-million Hong Kong International Sprint (HK-I) at Sha Tin Racecourse.

Trainer Randy Morse, in barn notes from Churchill Downs, said a recent training move by the 6-year-old son of Housebuster indicated to him that Morluc was not at his best and has decided against shipping his stable star for the Dec. 17 race. Morluc had suffered narrow defeats as the runner-up in each of the last two renewals of the Hong Kong race, losing to Australian sprinter Falvelon both years.

"I let him two-minute lick a couple of days ago and I didn't like the way he did it," Morse said. "I've had him so long that I pretty much know him like the back of my hand and he's just not right."

Morluc has not raced since finishing second to Good Journey in the July 4 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. Morse said he had planned to give Morluc a break after that race but a minor illness cost him a few days of training over the summer.

The conditioner said Mighty Beau or Testify could be invited to the race in place of Morluc, who will continue to train toward a 2003 campaign.

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