Ballerina tiptoes over to Arc trial
From JIM McGRATH in London
IT is probably just as well that Mitsuo Haga, the highly-successful Japanese owner, is as understanding as he is wealthy.
For this weekend, Mr Haga has been forced to forfeit GBP25,000 without an earthly chance of ever recovering his ambitious outlay.
That is the amount he shelled out for the supplementary fee for his filly Royal Ballerina, a fast-ground specialist, to be entered at the final stage for yesterday's Coalite St Leger at Doncaster.
When Michael Kauntze, the Irish trainer, made the supplementary entry on Mr Haga's behalf seven days before the Classic, the weather was generally dry and the forecast good.
But heavy rain at Doncaster on the first two days of the St Leger meeting changed the going to soft and caused Royal Ballerina's plans to be drastically altered.
''She is 21 pounds below her best on soft ground and would probably finish tailed off,'' lamented Kauntze.
All is not lost, however, as there is every chance that the filly, who was runner-up in both the English and Irish Oaks, will carry off prize money of some description in today's Prix Vermeille, one of three traditional trials for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.
John Reid, who has done his share of riding in Hong Kong, had been snapped up for the St Leger, and even with the change of venue, he did his level best to stay with Royal Ballerina.
But, already booked for Richard Hannon's Dana Springs in the Prix Vermeille, he was unable to switch and Ray Cochrane now rides.
''Royal Ballerina is top class and you don't want to let the ride on one as talented as that slip through your fingers. But there was nothing I could about it,'' said Reid.
Intrepidity and Wemyss Bight, the Andre Fabre-trained winners of the Oaks at Epsom and the Curragh respectively, will both be ready for their return battles with Royal Ballerina.
The ground will provide the key to the race. So good was Intrepidity's win in the Oaks at Epsom in June one is very tempted to forget her below-par effort against Wemyss Bight in the Irish equivalent the following month.
Whichever filly wins, she will be a likely challenger for favouritism for the Arc on October 3.
Hernando, the Stavros Niarchos-owned winner of the French Derby, puts his Arc credentials on the line in the Prix Niel, in which his only rival of any substance is Dernier Empereur. He should win comfortably.
The Prix Foy, the remaining trial, sees Luca Cumani's Yorkshire Oaks winner Only Royale facing only three possible opponents. It was interesting to note jockey Ray Cochrane's comments after the filly's surprise win at York.
He said: ''She is good, but there are attractive races for her in Canada at the back end of the season.'' Does that mean that the Arc is flying too high? Probably, I'd say.
HONG KONG race fans of the 1980s will no doubt be fascinated to hear that Derek Kent, who was warned off for three years in 1986, has taken out a licence to train again in England.
Kent, now 65, will be based at Southwell racecourse, the Nottinghamshire track which has been reconstructed in recent years and features a fibresand all-weather surface.
During his stay in Hong Kong, Kent ruffled a few feathers. I clearly remember when he and his assistant had to personally bring down their horses to Happy Valley from the Shan Kwong Road stables when Kent's mafoos refused to co-operate.
But Kent was always regarded as a shrewd trainer, and sent in a few well-fancied but juicy-priced winners in his time at both the Valley and Sha Tin. In Britain, he is remembered by most as the trainer of the outstanding steeplechaser Grand Canyon.
This new venture sees Kent linking up again with the go-ahead, father-son racecourse management team of Ron and Richard Muddle.
''Ron was one of my owners when I last trained in Britain and Richard used to ride for me. We have kept in touch over the years,'' Kent said.