Foreign contingent looking thin
The invitations for the International Races meeting will be made public on November 24 and are sure to include some outstanding performers but it is interesting, in the light of media comments in the United States last week before the Breeders' Cup, to note the general tone of gloom at the Jockey Club.
The Americans themselves will, of course, be few in number at Sha Tin as they are perennially. Their focus is overwhelmingly on dirt racing, the surface here is turf and rarely do the twain meet. The Jockey Club hopes that Breeders' Cup Mile winner Singletary will be here, though with the curse that seems to sit over Breeders' Cup winners even when they want to be here, we'll believe it when we see it.
In Europe, many of the ideal candidates have been turned out to stud. There is always this prospect with the timing of the meeting in December but the defections are probably greater in number this year. Yet, still they may offer the brightest rays of hope. Rakti is due for the Mile. Aidan O'Brien's pair of Powerscourt and Antonius Pius are still being discussed as possibles as they attempt to squeeze out a Group One win somewhere, anywhere, before the year is out, though Powerscourt has a date in the Japan Cup to get through. Clive Brittain seems likely to bring a lively team, however, including Var and Warrsan, and the French will be hard to hold as usual.
The Australian contingent looks thin on numbers, though David Hayes-owned Confectioner and Cox Plate runner-up Fields Of Omagh would be worthy visitors. The country's top-rated three-year-old sprinter of last year, Yell, who was displaced at the top only by Choisir's deeds, is also said to have been set for Hong Kong. The team from Down Under looks similar to past years - worthy but not the big players, since very genuine prospects in Grand Armee and Starcraft cancelled. Unbeaten sprinter Takeover Target missed the cut-off time for travel inoculations.
Even the Japanese, such enthusiastic visitors a couple of years ago after dominating in 2001, grew a little less bullish after a few defeats.
Some American commentators questioned the tag on the Breeders' Cup meeting - the World's Thoroughbred Racing Championships - when many of the foreign top seeds didn't show up for reasons varying from the venue to the timing, but certainly not because of the dollars. It was looking about as much a world championship as baseball's World Series.
There is a real sense from officials that the Jockey Club's 'turf world championships' on December 12 could face a similar fate - though perhaps it's just one of those situations where they presume the worst and leave themselves happy with the outcome.