Aussies ready to defy virus fears
Murray Bell and Alan Aitken
The equine herpes virus (EHV) outbreak has had 'minimal' impact in Australia with trainers and owners targeting the big international meeting at Sha Tin in 17 days.
Jockey Club international racing manager Mark Player said owners and trainers had asked the 'appropriate questions' and been comforted by assurances the virus - which had affected 132 horses - was under control.
'Every indication I'm getting is the virus outbreak will have no negative impact on the Audemars Piguet QEII Cup and Champions Mile races [on April 29],' Player said yesterday from Sydney. '[Australian owners and trainers] know disease outbreaks can happen in a large horse population from time to time, but they have also expressed their confidence in the Jockey Club to manage it. 'We've assured them their horses will be totally safe, and quarantined in totally separate stables at the opposite end of the racecourse from the domestic horse population,' he added.
Three-year-old sensation Haradasun may be a surprise spearhead on the HK$8 million Champions Mile when invited runners are announced on Saturday.
Tony Vasil-trained Haradasun has won Group One events at the last two of his nine career starts, including Australia's most important mile contest, the Doncaster Handicap, last Monday. 'Haradasun's run backing up this weekend will determine whether he is a chance for the Champions Mile or not,' said Player.
Trainer Anthony Cummings is keen to run his three-year-old, Casino Prince, in the Champions Mile, while Gai Waterhouse-trained Aqua D'Amore will come if she can put some barrier problems behind her.
The Danehill mare - eligible for a US$1 million Asian Mile Challenge bonus as the winner of the first series leg in Melbourne, the Futurity Stakes - was on her worst behaviour in the Doncaster Handicap and missed the jump before finishing less than a length from Haradasun in fourth. Stewards banned her from racing until she trials satisfactorily twice.