Henricksen's plan blown off course
THE balloon didn't quite go up for Jockey Club television guru Mike Henricksen at Sha Tin yesterday.
The burly Australian was due to take to the skies in a helium-filled balloon - all in the line of work. Unfortunately, he didn't. It was a case of the wind getting up . . . not, it should be emphasised, big Mike getting the wind up.
The balloon was due to become a focal part of television coverage of next Sunday's Audemars Piguet Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Sha Tin.
Striving to get a new angle and better overall pictures, Henricksen engineered the loan of the balloon and it was due to undergo a test flight yesterday.
All was in readiness for Henricksen to go aloft with a camera but the weather put paid to his plans.
'Unfortunately, we could not do it. The balloon was there, I was there and we had the camera. But there was simply too much of a wind blowing and it was not possible to launch the balloon because of that,' said Henricksen.
'It was all a bit of a disappointment and all we could do was mess about for half an hour waiting for the wind to drop but it didn't.
'Now we can't really risk it for next week as a similar wind would mean having to abort it completely. We will be using something else.' The affable guru is coming to the end of a two-year contract with the Jockey Club and, unlike yesterday, is up in the air about his future.
Trainer David Oughton's grand old campaigner Mazal was put down early yesterday morning.
The stable watchman found the multiple-winning stayer in agony with a twisted gut at about 3 am and the vet was summoned immediately but, as is often the case, nothing could be done.
'It was very, very upsetting. He has been a tremendous servant to the stable and you could not get a nicer horse.
'He had won twice this year already and set track records on both occasions. You could always count on him to win you one or two a season,' said Oughton.
Mazal was involved in virtually all big staying races, including International Races, and was noted for going even better with just a bit of cut in the ground.
He was being aimed for the late season staying races when he would have again been a huge threat with rain around.
The Jockey Club is certainly doing its utmost to promote the QE II Cup and last night's Grand National meeting crowd at Happy Valley saw both Billion Win and Johan Cruyff in special public gallops for the 2,000-metre Group Two showdown.
The QE II Cup promotion continues today with events at Hollywood Plaza in Diamond Hill from noon to 8 pm.
There will be a special panel exhibition showing pictures and all information relevant to the runners in Sunday's race, but of more interest is likely to be the presence of some top names.
Douglas Whyte, who rides local hope Indigenous, will sign autographs along with Eric Legrix and Felix Coetzee, who rides Billion Win in the big race. This is the second session running for an hour from 4 pm. In an earlier one-hour session from 3 pm, Robbie Fradd, Freddie Sanchez and Eddy W.M. Lai will do the signing honours.
Autographed photos of the riders will cost $10 each and all proceeds will go to charity.
There has been plenty written about the overseas defections from Sunday's big race but director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, believes it should be kept in perspective.
'There are a great many Group races in Europe that would attract just four or five runners,' he said. 'We have five overseas runners and some very genuine local contenders. I am quite sure it will be a very exciting race.' Quality rather than quantity - no bad thing.