HK quartet enter quarantine in bid to reach Japan
Four of Hong Kong's top horses entered quarantine yesterday with connections hopeful of a tilt at the Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo next month following 'some progress' in negotiations between the governments of Hong Kong and Japan.
The outbreak of equine herpes virus (EHV) at Sha Tin had brought a ban on horses travelling to Japan, which was expected to keep them out of the fourth and final leg of the Asian Mile Challenge on June 3.
But the Jockey Club's international racing manager, Mark Player, said yesterday three trainers had taken the option proposed by the club last week to place horses into quarantine while top-level negotiations continue over a compromise quarantine regime that would enable Hong Kong to participate in the race.
'Joyful Winner and Able One from John Moore's yard, Good Ba Ba from Andreas Schutz and The Duke from Caspar Fownes have entered quarantine and the signs have been slightly more encouraging from the negotiating table,' Player said.
The compromise deal proposed last week was for the horses to undertake 14 days of quarantine here before leaving for Japan, ensuring that they leave clear of EHV.
When they arrive in Tokyo, there is another regulation quarantine to undertake as well.
If the travel ban is lifted, the four will comprise the strongest team ever to leave for a major event overseas in a race which has quite a history for Hong Kong horses.
Fairy King Prawn was Hong Kong's first Group One winner on foreign soil when he took the 2000 Yasuda Kinen. There had been Hong Kong runners most years since, with Bullish Luck able to win the challenge last year. The trip is especially important for Able One, who stands to win a US$1 million bonus if he can take out the Yasuda Kinen as he is already the winner of an earlier leg of the challenge, the Champions Mile at Sha Tin last month.
'The Golden Week national holidays in Japan have slowed things down but I'm hoping that we will get an official answer regarding the trip by Wednesday,' Player said.
'We've had great support from the Hong Kong government, speaking on a government to government level with Japan's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the Japan Racing Association has been a huge help in ensuring that the situation is properly understood by the government on their side.
'Although it has been slow going, I would say this has probably gone better than past negotiations with Japan to alter something like quarantine schedules, so we're hopeful.'