International Races Sales proving to be far from a sure thing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 16 March, 1998, 12:00am

The sad fiscal fate of owners who pay the top price for horses from the annual International Races Sales continued yesterday.

Quick Commander was bought by owner Chan Chun-ming for a whopping $3.6 million last December and went to Tony Cruz, who was understandably keen on the impressive-looking son of Royal Academy.

It was the highest price paid in the three-year history of the Sales and track-watchers were very complimentary after an excellent trial at Happy Valley.

He was backed down to $14 to win first-up in the second event at Sha Tin yesterday and, after racing prominently early, finished alarmingly in midfield. He got more than a few reminders from Douglas Whyte - all to no discernible avail.

Hopefully, Quick Commander will not follow the sad footsteps of Cheers Up, the $3 million purchase who has won the price of a bale of hay and is in the depths of Class Four. He was top priced in the 1996 Sale.

Saint Tak has at least won a race and recouped just over $500,000 for connections. He was in action yesterday in the sixth event but failed to add any lustre to a very moderate reputation, finishing 10th of 14. There have certainly been successes from the three Sales - but also some very high-priced failures.

The good people at Hongkong Telecom laid on a high profile press conference last week for the inaugural running of their Cup race yesterday, but found that their efforts were largely overshadowed by another interesting telecommunications story.

This one was not legal.

Within hours of the midday press conference, the Jockey Club put out a statement saying that illegal tapping devices had been found in a telephone junction box at the Racecourse Garden apartments, where a number of top trainers live.

It was routine Hongkong Telecom maintenance that turned up what, from a timing and publicity standpoint, could scarcely have been bettered.

There were suggestions that those who had put the tapping equipment in place were possibly ex-employees of the company and there was also one suggestion that someone in Hongkong Telecom uniform could easily have waltzed past the security guard and into the apartment building.

Whatever the final outcome, Hongkong Telecom garnered a lot more publicity worldwide from the tapping incident than they did from the Cup race. They enjoyed a media run in Australia and Britain as well as on the World Service of the BBC.

As some say, any publicity is good publicity.

French ace Eric Legrix started the day with hopes of a double and ended it prematurely, limping off the course.

There was not an auspicious start when Indy's Gem, the raging favourite, was turned over in the opener and then Delightful Special, who looked a great chance in the sixth event, was withdrawn after being kicked at the start by winner Bravado.

Legrix looked far from pleased at this turn of events, and the day ended when he rapped a knee hard on the gates - with the help of Godspeed - in the seventh event.