Asian raiders to step up spring presence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 January, 1996, 12:00am

AN influx of Asian visitors - further demonstrating the development of mutual activities - is expected at this year's Melbourne spring carnival, writes Graeme Kelly.

That is the forecast from Victoria Racing Club general manager (racing) Les Benton. 'There is a lot of interest in our racing in Asia,' Benton reports. 'There are a number of people in that part of the world, and particularly in Hong Kong, who are keen about racing their horses in Melbourne. 'I think we will find that a number of horses will come from Hong Kong and other Asian countries to Melbourne next spring and in the future.

'Obviously, some of them will have Melbourne Cup aspirations but I think there will also be other Asian horses sent down here to run in other races, as well.' Benton feels that the 'experiment' of sending River Verdon to Melbourne in 1994 and Makarpura Star last year has heightened the prospect of, especially, Hong Kong participation.

'In a way River Verdon and Makarpura Star were testing the water,' said Benton. 'Now that the Hong Kong people have an accurate guide on the horses required to succeed in Melbourne they are anxious to do well here, so I think it is going to mean a very interesting time ahead.' There are already indications, as Benton has confirmed, that the French stayer Partipral will be sent Down Under for this year's Melbourne Cup. After winning the International Vase (2,400 metres) at Sha Tin last month Partipral was secured by patrons of Patrick Biancone's stable with the specific plan of running him in the Cup.

Top jockey Mick Dittman, who has been going along quietly of late, is in the headlines again. Queensland Principal Club stewards are inquiring into aspects of his ride on Count Gaffa at Eagle Farm on New Year's Day.

Count Gaffa, who started at 4-1, was beaten a head by Lozza, who was backed down from 7-2 to 11-4 favouritism in the event. After viewing replays of the race, the stewards - headed by Steve Railton - asked Dittman whether he was satisfied he had tested Count Gaffa to the best of his ability. 'I don't have any regrets at all about the way I rode the horse,' Dittman replied.

Railton subsequently said: 'What concerns me is that you glanced to your outside on a number of occasions. Are you telling me you weren't preoccupied with Lozza?' 'Why should I be?' was Dittman's answer.