Owner moves former Derby winner from champion trainer in wake of controversial
Johan Cruyff has been moved from champion trainer David Hayes' stable in a sensational twist to the controversy surrounding its performance on Sunday.
The 1998 Hong Kong Derby winner, a local hope for next month's $10 million Hong Kong Cup, will now be trained by David Oughton.
Hayes said the owner's action yesterday was 'the biggest insult I have suffered in my years as a trainer'.
It comes after Johan Cruyff's failure to run in the first three at Sha Tin on Sunday and an inquiry by the stipendiary stewards.
Hayes was left shaking his head as unpredictable owner Thomas Liang Ting-sen instigated the stable switch which also sees brilliant youngster Indian Road go to Oughton.
The double-switch will complete a weird circle as Liang removed his horses from Oughton after a major drama four years ago involving global ace Michael Kinane which followed the debut run of the injury-plagued Benji.
Johan Cruyff is entered for both the Hong Kong Cup and the $8 million Hong Kong Mile but the entries are not affected by the transfer.
Hayes, who gave extensive evidence before the stipendiary stewards after the running of the Pok Oi Diamond Jubilee Cup in which the raging 1.4-1 favourite finished fourth, was deeply upset by Liang's decision.
'I've had Johan Cruyff two months for two races.
'It is a great shock to me and I can also say that it is the biggest insult I have suffered in my years as a trainer.
'I am not whingeing but it is very much a blow to me personally. I never even got a chance to start the other one [Indian Road].
'Frankly, I would really prefer just to let the whole thing die down so that I can get on with the job but it is upsetting.
'It was also an owner's decision to put up Kieren [Fallon], and Basil [Marcus] was upset by that,' Hayes said. Stable jockey Marcus rode another horse from the stable, Hunting Lad, who won the race.
Reigning British champion jockey Fallon was fined $50,000 by the stipendiary stewards because they were dissatisfied with his riding of the former Irish Derby place-getter out to the line.
That decision has also provoked uproar in the local media on the grounds of leniency.
English-born Oughton has been one of the chief beneficiaries of the disbandment of the Patrick Biancone stable but was philosophical yesterday about the stable's latest additions.
'It's nice to have them and the owner and I do know each other.
'But it may be best to be a bit practical about Johan Cruyff. He is not getting any younger and he has not won a race for almost two years.
'I don't know how long I'll have him because the plan is to have him stand at stud as I understand it.
'My own view is that Johan Cruyff is probably best over a mile but it will be the owner's decision in which of the International Races to run him. The other one, Indian Road, does look to be a very nice sort although he, too, may have a problem or two.
'These things do happen with some regularity in Hong Kong racing and there is little point in getting overly concerned one way or the other. It is always going to happen,' Oughton said.
But the irony is impossible to escape.
There was hell to pay when Kinane was carpeted for a debut ride on Benji.
A running and riding inquiry was opened but no action was taken and, 24 hours later, a veterinary report showed the horse was clinically lame.
In the interim, owner Liang moved Benji to Biancone who trained the galloper until the French trainer's own suspension two months ago.
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