Change of plan puts Hannon in Vase frame
TOP British trainer Richard Hannon changed his plans at the last minute to shore up the overseas challenge for the $5 million International Vase following a final American defection.
Harrassed Jockey Club officials spent hours yesterday finalising the lineup for the 2,400-metre Vase following an overnight decision not to run the American raider, Capracotta.
With telephone lines between Hong Kong and Newmarket running hot, Hannon confirmed after a consultation with connections that Commoner would run in Hong Kong on December 10 rather than tackling an American race for which he had been targeted.
Hannon's confirmation came less than a hour after another leading Newmarket trainer, David Loder, had regretfully declined the Jockey Club invitation to run Coral Eclipse contender Prince Of Andros, part-owned in Hong Kong.
Prince Of Andros was the Jockey Club's immediate choice after the defection of Capracotta, but Loder had demurred until after the early morning gallop.
Loder said: 'It's a pity because originally we were quite keen to run the horse in Hong Kong. One of his owners is from there and it is a really good race.
'But you have to be realistic about these things and the horse simply did not work well enough to justify making the trip.' Hannon's charge, Commoner, has been kept right up to the mark since the British season ended because of the planned American race. The horse is American-owned but there was little hesitation in switching to Hong Kong, an ironic move considering the chance came about in the first place because of an American withdrawal.
But Commoner will have his work cut out. He has a Newmarket race to his credit from last season but failed when tackling top company.
Commoner finished last in the French Derby but at his last outing did finish second in a fairly hot Group Three contest.
The Jockey Club now seem certain to evaluate the position of American runners in the annual showpiece following the huge sweep of changes this year which has resulted now in only two runners, Ventiquattrofogli in the International Cup and Finder's Fortune in the Bowl, from north America.
Director of racing, Philip Johnston, said: 'It is unfortunate and we will look at it. But it should also be borne in mind that they do have a pretty good record in these races. They have played a meaningful part even though there have been problems actually getting runners here.'