'Devastated' Allan forced to pull Prawn from Mile
Hong Kong's hopes of victory at next month's $54 million International meeting were dealt a bitter blow yesterday when trainer Ivan Allan announced that Fairy King Prawn will miss the Hong Kong Mile. The dual Horse of the Year has been under an injury cloud for the past month and Allan finally admitted defeat in his race to have his stable star ready to take on the world's best milers in the $14 million event.
'I'm devastated,' Allan said from Tokyo, where he arrived on Monday to oversee Indigenous' preparation for the Japan Cup. 'This has been a painful decision to make, but Fairy King Prawn is not responding to all efforts to reduce the slight swelling on his right foreleg and we are running out of time.'
Allan denied the problem was potentially career-threatening as long as Fairy King Prawn was given time to recover. 'He has had this problem for about 15 months and normally it can be controlled,' he said.
'He is not lame and is cantering sound. However, I am reluctant to put him under fast work pressure as this could risk serious permanent injury. For this reason, I have had to advise his owner, Philip Lau [Sak-hong], that we will have to miss the Mile. Fairy King Prawn has become very special to all concerned and cannot be exposed to permanent injury. This decision is in the best interests of racing and Hong Kong's champion racehorse.'
The injury setback robs Fairy King Prawn's connections of the chance to make up for an agonising defeat in last year's Hong Kong Mile, when the son of Danehill failed by a short-head to overhaul brilliant New Zealand mare Sunline. With that rival confirmed as an absentee this year, Fairy King Prawn would have been Hong Kong's leading hope at the showpiece meeting at Sha Tin on December 16.
Lau said yesterday: 'I am very disappointed and this is bad news for Hong Kong people. I thought after last year that he could come back and win this time. Ivan told me the horse had a little problem, but I thought we could fix it before the International races.
'I thought if he could throw off his problem in a week or two that he could still run because we are still a month away, but maybe there is not enough time. Ivan knows better than anyone.'
Fairy King Prawn is the only home runner to have won at either of the last two editions of the International meeting, having taken the Sprint in 1999, and the Hong Kong Jockey Club's director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said: 'It is a great pity. You would have to say we have lost our strongest weapon, but the soundness and the welfare of the horse must come first.
'It is one of those things which always seems to happen to the best horses - they give the most effort and so are more at risk of injury. Even since his two-year-old days, Fairy King Prawn has been a bit dicey, so I suppose we were aware that it could happen at any time and it is unfortunate it should happen at this time. Some injuries like this just take time to recover.'
There had been no sign of the problems ahead when Fairy King Prawn made a devastating seasonal debut on October 1 to take the National Day Cup in course-record time for the Sha Tin 1,400 metres. He had been due to have his final prep for the Mile in this Sunday's Sprint Trial Trophy, but Allan had to scrap that plan last week. 'He was OK after his first run, but then the problem flared up and I wasn't happy with him,' the trainer said. 'He just hasn't responded to treatment as well as I hoped. I have contained the problem, but even if I could get him to the races, I don't want him to break down.
'The Mile will be a tough race, but I thought he could win this time. Even if Sunline had run, I think we would have beaten her because if you look at the race last year Fairy King Prawn came too late.'
Allan promised Fairy King Prawn would be back, but said it was too early to make definite plans for the second half of the season. Following last year's Hong Kong Mile, Fairy King Prawn's programme took in the Stewards' Cup, which will be run this season on January 20, the Hong Kong Gold Cup in early March and the Dubai Duty Free later that month.
'I can't say yet when or where he might run,' Allan said. 'I will have to ease up on his preparation and give him a few weeks on the easy list. The most important thing is to get him sound again and then we can see from there. If you look at my other top horses, like Indigenous and Oriental Express, they are able to race at the top level until they are eight or nine because I look after them and especially take care of their legs. When this problem is under control, Fairy King Prawn will return to the winner's circle. He just needs more time.'
Fairy King Prawn has established himself among the world's leading milers with a string of top-class efforts in international events. He became the first Hong Kong horse to win an international Group One event overseas when he took the Yasuda Kinen in Japan in June 2000 and, following his Hong Kong Mile defeat, lost out narrowly again in the Dubai Duty Free in March when caught by the French-trained Jim And Tonic.
Hong Kong's hopes in the Mile will now rest mainly with Electronic Unicorn, who was fifth in last year's event for Ricky Yiu Poon-fie but looked better than ever on his seasonal debut this month when he took the National Panasonic Cup in his first start for John Size. The five-year-old was rated Hong Kong's second-best horse following that display, six pounds behind Fairy King Prawn on a mark of 132, and is due to have his final prep for the Mile in Sunday's Chevalier Cup.
Engelbrecht-Bresges said: 'We now have to hope that Electronic Unicorn can step up and be a worthy replacement for Fairy King Prawn.'