Down Under beckons Cruyff

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 May, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 May, 1999, 12:00am

Johan Cruyff will be back in action before the end of the season, but overseas plans now centre on the Cox Plate in Australia rather than the Champion Stakes in Ireland in September.

'At this exact moment, it is up in the air,' said trainer Patrick Biancone yesterday. 'But the preference has shifted to Australia because our original plans have altered as he could not run in the Champions and Chater Cup.

'His shoulder injury was not serious and he has had two scans and he is all right. It is now a case of putting him back in work and sorting out the right race for him before the end of the season.

'I have definitely not decided yet what that race will be,' added Biancone.

Johan Cruyff, the Hong Kong Derby winner who finished fourth in the Irish equivalent, is entered for the ESAT Digifone Champion Stakes at Leopardstown on September 11, a week after the new Hong Kong season opens.

Biancone was at the Ballydoyle stables of Aidan O'Brien last week - just days before Johan Cruyff was due to run in the Champions.

The original plan was to send Johan Cruyff back to O'Brien to get him ready for the Champion Stakes. Had he run in the Champions and Chater Cup, the five-year-old was to go into local quarantine for three weeks.

'Frankly, Australia is a better target for Hong Kong horses. It is closer with less travelling time involved,' said Biancone.

'They have excellent facilities in Melbourne at Sandown Park and, to be quite honest, it might be easier winning or placing in an Australian Group race than it would in a European equivalent.

'With so many good horses in Europe and the Arab-owned horses going for virtually every Group race, it is hard to win one. It is not necessarily easy in Australia - maybe just easier.' The BMW Cox Plate on October 23 is the Australian leg of the World Racing Championship Series and is the top weight-for-age race in the country. 'The timing of the Cox Plate is also that bit better for us now as well,' said Biancone.

Valley roundup - Page 22