Japanese raiders given green light for Sha Tin mission
Visitors will be subjected to a 14-day period of pre-export quarantine
The Japanese participation in the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races has been rescued after quarantine protocols were finally thrashed out yesterday by the Jockey Club and government officials on both sides.
Club representatives and officials from agriculture ministries in Japan and Hong Kong have been trying for the past month to overcome issues associated with the Equine Influenza (EI) outbreak, which struck Japan earlier this year.
Club officials had been pessimistic that the obstacles could be overcome so yesterday's announcement came as a surprise breakthrough.
'All I can say about the discussions is that it has been a very long and difficult road to achieve a positive outcome,' said the Jockey Club's relieved international racing manager, Mark Player.
'But the great news is that the Japanese will be able to come and now we are in a position to talk to the connections of suitable horses with some confidence and try to get them here. Up until now, that hasn't been possible as we didn't know if they would be allowed in. The Japanese horses have been such an important part of the growth of our meeting towards turf world championship status and I'm thrilled that they will be here again.'
The agreed protocols will demand Japanese horses undertake a 14-day quarantine at Hanshin Racecourse in Osaka and, provided they show no symptoms of EI and there are no positive cases within a 10km radius of the quarantine facility, they will then arrive to do the usual visiting quarantine at Sha Tin prior to the meeting.
Player said the pre-export protocols would make it impossible to invite Japan Cup runners, as the race is run on November 25 - just 15 days before the Hong Kong's showcase - and that time frame would not allow them to complete the process.
'That might mean that we are down a little on the numbers from Japan, but I'm still confident we will get a number of the right kind of visitors for the Hong Kong Mile and Sprint, and perhaps one or two for the Cup,' he said.
Player would reveal only one of the likely visitors. 'The Yasuda Kinen runner-up Kongo Rikishio is high on our list of targets for the Mile.'
Dubai Duty Free winner and second in last year's Hong Kong Cup, Admire Moon might have been a target, too, but it is understood he is aimed at the Japan Cup.
Player received bad news on Wednesday about high-class Australian miler, Divine Madonna, who would be spelled instead of coming for the Mile.
But the news continues to be good with top sprinter Miss Andretti. 'She is down to run on Saturday in Melbourne then goes into quarantine on Monday and everything is on schedule for her to come next month,' he said.