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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

End to quarantine stand-off would open up exciting opportunities

Pakistan Star claims victory on Champions Day at Sha Tin racecourse
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Imagine if the quarantine demands were eased on horse movement between Hong Kong and Australia. Not that any change is imminent as I understand it.

A change could, of course, not only potentially open the door to what would be be the most anticipated and readily promoted racing clash of the year - the Legend versus the Enigma. Winx versus Pakistan Star in the Cox Plate.

It would also allow trainer John Size to consider running any one of his plethora of high class sprinters in The Everest and/or the Darley Classic. It’s less than ideal that so many of them would continue to compete against each other as was the case when he trifectaed Sunday’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize with the Australian-bred and gelded trio of Ivictory, Mr Stunning and Beat The Clock.

Who wouldn’t want Ivictory for their Everest slot?

However, as it stands a trip to Japan or staying put in Hong Kong is more likely. None of his horses is entered for Royal Ascot, although a late or supplementary entry is possible. And goodness knows that Sydney’s thus far largely ineffective quest to secure an international runner of some standing, to any race, would receive a massive fillip with a Size-trained runner.

As for Pakistan Star, the Cox Plate and Winx might not even be remotely on the radar of trainer Tony Cruz and owner Kerm Din but surely the Moonee Valley Racing Club would move heaven and earth to get him to Melbourne.

Perhaps that could prompt the Clubs to draw on whatever contacts they may have to petition the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. However it’s debatable whether any real influence can be brought to bear in such matters and horse movement and quarantine protocols do not appear high on the agenda of this month’s Asian Racing Conference in Seoul.

For now, in terms of the sprinting ranks, we’re left to eagerly await the Royal meeting where Redkirk Warrior, Merchant Navy, Shoals and Lucky Bubbles are entered from this region.

Lucky Bubbles was beaten five and half lengths in the Chairman’s Sprint Prize and is yet is still likely to be very competitive at Ascot - such is the depth of Hong Kong sprinting talent. Mind you, he’d be better placed in the King’s Stand Stakes than the Diamond Jubilee for which he’s nominated.

A further five and a quarter lengths behind Lucky Bubbles was Charlie Appleby’s Blue Point. He was set a task by William Buick - who then redeemed himself aboard Pakistan Star - but yet again the British-trained sprinter failed to measure up.

This was their first assault on the Chairman’s Sprint Prize. However, since the December HKIR Sprint race was switched to 1200 metres in 2006, 23 European or British horses have tried and failed with just two managing to run a place.

One failure from Blue Point, after travelling to Dubai and Hong Kong, is not enough to totally condemn the current crop of British and Irish sprinters. However the likes of Washington DC, Magical Memory and Librisa Breeze didn’t measure up in the Al Quoz Sprint and Washington DC, Marsha and Cotai Glory were unplaced in last year’s Breeders Cup Turf Sprint.

Yes, Appleby won the Al Quoz with Jungle Cat but he’s effectively a UAE horse given the amount of racing he’s done there.

Which all, of course, leads to the inescapable conclusion that - fair dinkum - I’ll hand in my badge if Redkirk Warrior and Merchant Navy don’t dominate at the Royal meeting. Provided that David Hayes doesn’t let Frankie Dettori anywhere near Redkirk Warrior until raceday and John Size doesn’t suddenly turn up with one of his.

It costs £55,000 to supplement for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes but part of that would be offset by the travel allowance offered by Ascot and it’s understood that Size has not ruled out taking a runner. He was made aware of all the Ascot opportunities, conditions and procedures before the races closed last week.

Pakistan Star would also have to be supplemented but financial considerations are generally low on the priority list for those seeking to run at the Royal meeting and, perhaps, even moreso with Hong Kong owners.

Whatever transpires, it promises to be a sensational Royal meeting which would only be further boosted by a couple of additional Hong Kong entries.


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I’ll hand in my badge if Redkirk Warrior and Merchant Navy don’t dominate at the Royal meeting
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