Unicorn's Mile hopes soar as Slickly joins defections

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 November, 2001, 12:00am

Godolphin yesterday dealt another blow to the sliding quality of next month's Hong Kong Mile when it scratched triple Group One winner Slickly from the $14 million race. Following the earlier withdrawals of Sunline and local hope Fairy King Prawn, last year's winner and runner-up, the news means that the race has lost its three highest-rated horses within the space of a fortnight.

The latest withdrawal is a setback to the Hong Kong Jockey Club's hopes of making the International meeting on December 16 the 'turf world championships'. But it raises hopes of a home victory with Electronic Unicorn, who finished fifth last year but has progressed this season to join Fairy King Prawn as the joint-best horse in Hong Kong.

Godolphin has replaced Slickly with China Visit, who is rated seven pounds inferior to his stablemate on an international rating of 116. The Dubai-based operation has also decided to withdraw the 116-rated Kutub from the Hong Kong Vase, replacing that triple Group One winner with Ekraar (114). Their other representative will be Tobougg in the Hong Kong Cup and all three will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Jockey Club's director of racing, put a brave face on the Godolphin changes. 'They are still keen to participate, but they want to send the horses they think will perform better,' he said. 'We are disappointed about Slickly, but his best form has been on soft ground and I think they have thought a little more about it and decided that conditions won't be in his favour. Kutub won his last start in Singapore and Godolphin think that may have taken too much out of the horse. But they are pretty bullish about Ekraar.'

On the plus side, Engelbrecht-Bresges promised a 'good surprise' today when the Jockey Club hosts a press conference to give the latest on the overseas challenge and announce the selected Hong Kong runners for the International meeting.

Consistent British miler Tamburlaine, runner-up to Golan in the English 2,000 Guineas in May, is also understood to have been added to the Mile line-up, while the British-trained The Trader is in the Hong Kong Sprint. Engelbrecht-Bresges would not confirm those changes ahead of today's press conference.