Quarantine demands put Luso's Vase tilt in doubt
A quarantine wrangle could prevent globe-trotting English stayer Luso, the mount of Irish ace Michael Kinane, from defending his $6.5 million International Vase crown next month.
Trainer Clive Brittain, known throughout his career for taking a horse anywhere to win a race, has decided on a two-pronged Far Eastern attack for Luso.
The teak-tough stayer will now tackle the Group One Japan Cup in Tokyo on November 29 - the race is simulcast live to Sha Tin - and then come to Hong Kong for his Vase defence on December 13.
That's the plan, but Japanese authorities are not falling into line and have pointed out that Luso must spend two weeks in Tokyo after the race to fulfil quarantine requirements.
If those current guidelines are adhered to, then Luso is effectively out of the Vase.
The ambitious plan of Newmarket-based Brittain has the backing of Kinane, who will now change plans and skip a jockeys' invitation race in Mauritius to go to Tokyo to ride Luso.
He will then fly to Hong Kong for his December stint with the Jockey Club here.
Kinane said: 'Luso has been relatively lightly raced this season in Europe in comparison to past years.
'Clive has had his eye primarily on the Hong Kong race and has really aimed his overall preparation at that. But the Japan Cup came up and he felt that it would be possible to do both.' The Jockey Club has been informed of the plans for Luso and director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges confirmed talks were being held with the Japan Racing Association (JRA) in relation to the quarantine issue.
'There are actually three horses including Luso who are going to Japan and then want to come on to Hong Kong but one of them, Ungaro, is a reserve for the Vase,' he said.
'There is a policy where horses who have raced in Japan from overseas stay for 14 days after the race, but we are discussing the situation. It is slightly different in that Luso would not be immediately returning to his country of origin, England, but coming here.
'In other words, he could spend a fortnight or a month in Hong Kong after the race before returning to England. We do not have a quarantine problem with horses coming in from Japan.' Caitano is the other horse directly involved, along with the Mick Channon-trained Muchea, who is hoping for a call-up to the International Bowl for which he is now reserve.
If there is no solution to the current impasse it will be up to Brittain and owner Saaed Manana to decide if Luso heads for Tokyo or bypasses Japan for another crack at the Vase.
The Japan Cup, which used to be the sole race in the Far East to attract major overseas runners, is having problems maintaining its position, not least in relation to Hong Kong's International Races.
The JRA has suffered another blow with the decision two days ago by the owners of Australian star Might And Power not to accept an invitation to run in Tokyo. Connections pulled out because of travelling arrangements after the race, which would have meant a 20-hour journey back to Australia.
The European challenge has been fragmented with Swain not going to Tokyo but instead to a Kentucky stud farm.
Owners of the other Australian invited horse, Catalan Opening, have also declined to run in Japan and are now awaiting an official invitation to run in the $7 million International Cup at Sha Tin instead.
Last night's Happy Valley roundup: Page 24