Maund vows to keep star filly well clear of HK

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 May, 2007, 12:00am

Jockey Club international racing manager Mark Player has a major public relations challenge on his hands after Australian trainer Ron Maund launched an extraordinary attack on Hong Kong racing and threatened to boycott the Cathay Pacific International meeting.

Maund trains Gold Edition, the iron maiden of Australia's three-year-old ranks. She's already won 14 races, the latest being the Gold Coast Guineas in Queensland on Friday and was second to champion sprinting mare Miss Andretti in the Group One VRC Newmarket Handicap in March. In the wake of her latest win, Player said he'd spoken to Maund, as well as owners Kevin and Tanith O'Brien 'a number of times' about the prospects of the filly coming to Hong Kong for the HK$12 million Hong Kong Sprint in December.

But back in Australia, Maund condemned Hong Kong's handling of Takeover Target's withdrawal from last year's feature sprint and the jailing of popular lightweight jockey Chris Munce.

'I'll probably get myself into trouble for speaking out but I feel pretty strongly about this,' Maund told Ray Thomas of The Sunday Telegraph.

'What they did to old Joe [Janiak] with Takeover Target was disgraceful. Here they are saying it was all right for him to race the horse in England, it was all right for him to race the horse in Japan but you can't race him in Hong Kong with that medication.

'It wasn't like he was giving the horse a performance enhancer either. All the drug does is help those old geldings cope with travel and hard racing.'

Takeover Target returned a positive to 17-alpha-hydroxyprogesterone hexanoate, a registered drug with some therapeutic use. The substance is a prohibited substance under the rules of the Jockey Club but not in Australia, though stewards there will discuss whether to begin screening swab samples for it at a national conference later this month. Maund said he wouldn't be taking Gold Edition overseas unless 'they get their act together'.

'The rules have to be the same everywhere for these international race series, the playing field has to be level,' he said. The trainer from Toowoomba in southeast Queensland also took aim at Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption for its role in the jailing of Chris Munce for 30 months for his involvement in the tips-for-bets scandal.

'He was riding horses to win - it wasn't like he was trying to get them beaten,' Maund said of Munce. 'I get all worked up just thinking about it.'

Player said yesterday he was surprised to hear Maund's strong views, as he'd spoken to the trainer about Gold Edition potentially coming to Hong Kong subsequent to the Takeover Target fiasco. 'Neither Ron nor the owners mentioned Takeover Target,' Player said. 'I had also spoken to them a couple of times since and was under the impression that Hong Kong was very much in their plans, and was possibly going to be her final race before retirement.

'As far as Ron's comments are concerned, I would point out that horses can be treated with therapeutic drugs in Hong Kong but they must be drug-free on race day.

'That was what Joe Janiak had always intended but it proved not to be the case, so there was no question of Takeover Target running with a prohibited substance still in his system.

'Regarding Chris Munce, we must also ask Ron to understand that this case has been run entirely by the ICAC, and has nothing to do with the Jockey Club whatsoever. And while the decision is subject to potential appeal, it is inappropriate for anyone at the club to comment on the decision.'

Player said he hoped he could clear the air and make Maund feel comfortable about Gold Edition participating in December.

'She's a great sprinting filly. I hope Ron can see his way clear to having a change of heart, and I'll be doing my best to convince him, but at the end of the day it's his and the owners' call - if they choose not to come, there's nothing we can do about it. The race will go on.'