by Murray Bell
The Hong Kong Jockey Club will be announcing the invitees for the Cathay Pacific International Races Nov. 21, and it seems the club has succeeded in attracting its second Breeders’ Cup winner to the “turf world championships.”
Bill Nader, the Jockey Club’s executive director of racing, said 2006 John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) winner Red Rocks is “almost certain” to be coming to compete at Sha Tin Racecourse Dec. 9.
“We’re still working for confirmation on a couple of other big names, but I’m pretty confident Red Rocks will be here,” Nader said.
Early indications are the club will have at least three overseas headline horses for the big meet, with Australia’s star sprinting mare Miss Andretti already in quarantine in Melbourne, and Aidan O’Brien having confirmed Excellent Art’s appointment for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Mile (HK-IT).
But the news isn’t all good for the Jockey Club, with the impact of equine influenza threatening to wipe out the participation of the Japanese despite the protocols set in place for the use of Hanshin Racecourse as a quarantine facility.
With the approved facility at Hanshin due to reopen for local racing Dec. 1, it will cease to be a quarantine center Nov. 29, meaning any horse not in quarantine there as of Nov. 15 cannot come to Hong Kong.
“A number of Japanese runners will not be coming due to the requirement to do with the 14-day quarantine at Hanshin,” HKJC international racing manager Mark Players said. “The various connections have told us it just doesn't suit their horses’ programs to have it interrupted like that.”
Recent Melbourne group II winner Sculptor, a New Zealand-based stayer, has gone into quarantine in advance of an expected invitation to the Hong Kong Vase (HK-IT) at 2,400 meters. Sculptor will be partnered by New Zealand’s top rider, Lisa Cropp.
The top local horses will battle for invitations for the International Mile and Sprint in trial races set for Nov. 17.
The Cathay Pacific International Sprint Trial (HK-IIT) looks to be the race of the season, with last year’s Hong Kong Sprint winner Absolute Champion--the world’s top-rated sprinter for 2006--poised to battle with rising stars Medic Power (jockey Brett Prebble) and Sacred Kingdom (Gerald Mosse).
Absolute Champion, who was handled by Prebble in his group I wins last season, will be ridden for the first time by Eric Saint-Martin.
The group II International Trial will see the return to racing of Vengeance of Rain, who hasn’t raced since his second-place finish behind Viva Pataca in the Champions & Chater Cup (HK-IT) at 2,400 meters June 3.