PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 December, 2002, 12:00am

Many were surprised that Macau-trained Royal Treasure was included, sans international rating, in the Hong Kong Cup. Doubtless it was greeted with some astonishment in the former Portuguese enclave, where the wider perception of the relationship between Hong Kong and Macau has not been positively influenced in the past year by amendments to the Betting Ordinance which slashed Macau's turnover by half, by the horse-shooting flare-up in mid-year and the standoff over Macau threatening to operate pools on Hong Kong racing and take its revenge on the Jockey Club betting figures.

Of course, we cannot be sure of the motives underpinning Royal Treasure's inclusion in the Cup and it would be nice to think the decision was made from the purest of sporting motives and not the cynical mutterings overheard in some quarters - the announcement coming as it did just 24 hours after the Jockey Club was awarded the right to operate soccer betting and doubtless target the hundreds of millions bet legally on soccer in Macau each weekend. Hundreds of millions in return for a horse to run a respectable midfield at best? Think Hong Kong got the better of that round.

What the invitation does show, however, is that the quarantine situation between Macau and Hong Kong appears to have been worked out. Now, is there any further bar to Hong Kong horses which are unable to make the grade being retired and sent straight across to Macau to race to have a second chance at a return?