Dylan Thomas books HK date
Europe's top horse to headline showpiece
Japanese bureaucracy has driven Europe's Horse of the Year, Dylan Thomas, into Hong Kong's arms.
The Irish four-year-old has been scratched from Sunday's Japan Cup to become the unexpected star attraction at the Cathay Pacific International Races on December 9.
Dylan Thomas, with an international rating of 128, will become the highest-rated horse ever to race in Hong Kong, an honour that previously rested with Grandera (127), who visited for the Hong Kong Cup of 2002, only to finish seventh. Falbrav, hero of the Cup in 2003, boasted a 126 rating.
Dylan Thomas has been undergoing import quarantine at Shiroi Station in Japan, where he was set for Sunday's US$4.45 million Japan Cup, but has been ruled out by quarantine authorities on the grounds that he 'did not show negative results from the serological test for equine viral arteritis (EVA)'.
It is understood that EVA vaccination prior to entry into Japan may have caused an elevated antibody level in Dylan Thomas' system. But Hong Kong Jockey Club authorities have no EVA concerns and have willingly rolled out the red carpet to the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe hero, who was last week named European Horse of the Year.
Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges described Dylan Thomas' entry for the HK$14 million Hong Kong Vase as 'the icing on the cake' of an extraordinary feast of racing two weeks from Sunday. 'We have set the goal of this day becoming the turf world championships and the fact that Dylan Thomas will compete at Sha Tin this year is a wonderful compliment to the club and to Hong Kong as a venue for top-class sport,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
While admitting there was a certain amount of luck in trainer Aidan O'Brien deciding to target Sha Tin with his six-time Group One winner, Engelbrecht-Bresges pointed out that the Jockey Club had already laid the foundation to capitalise on the luck when it came.
'We believe it takes three to five years for these ideas to take root with the various owners and trainers, to become a part of their programming and planning,' the CEO said.
'We have done a lot of work in recent years to attract the Coolmore group, and Aidan O'Brien gave us some fantastic feedback after his first visit last year, so we were always hopeful of some strong support from them for this meeting,' he added.
Dylan Thomas grabbed top billing on the programme from champion Australian filly Miss Andretti, who is being aimed at the HK$12 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint.
Miss Andretti is already in quarantine in Melbourne and her clash with Hong Kong stars Sacred Kingdom and Absolute Champion will be another highlight of the HK$62 million day.
If there was a disappointment for the club, it was attracting just nine entries for the richest race in town, the HK$20 million Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup. Engelbrecht-Bresges said it was because of the awesome reputations of the high-profile locals Viva Pataca and Vengeance Of Rain. 'Owners and trainers around the world were truly petrified of meeting them,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said.