Godolphin pulls plug on Diabolical
Dettori in doubt for Hong Kong after Sheikh Mohammed withdraws his sole entry
The attrition rate for the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races on December 14 rose yesterday with a further three invited horses confirmed as no-shows, including the lone Godolphin representative, sprinter Diabolical.
The Hong Kong Sprint entry failed to impress his trainer Saeed bin Suroor in training on the eve of his departure and has been withdrawn from the race, as have German stayer Dickens (Vase) and the British-trained Cup entry, Hearthstead Maison.
British stayer Sixties Icon had already been withdrawn from the Vase after a moderate performance in Sunday's Japan Cup.
'Godolphin's Simon Crisford rang me with the news that Diabolical's work simply wasn't up to scratch and he said they have no wish to present him for a major race if he is not going to do himself and the race itself justice,' said the Jockey Club's international racing manager, Mark Player, last night.
The scratching is a blow as Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Godolphin, which splits its operations between Dubai and Newmarket, has been a strong, long-term supporter of the Hong Kong international meeting and one of the more successful yards as well, winning the Cup in 2000 with Fantastic Light and again last year with Ramonti, while Firebreak took the Mile in 2004.
Only once in the past decade, in 2006, has the day been without a Godolphin runner and the absence of Frankie Dettori's employer also begs the question whether the superstar jockey (pictured) will be part of the internationals, though it is understood he may have had a tentative engagement for a runner in another race.
'Trainer Mark Johnston told us that Hearthstead Maison has a skin condition and is not fit to travel, so he is confirmed out of the Cup,' Player added. 'And Hans Blume, the trainer of Dickens, said his horse has a problem with his near foreleg and will go immediately for a break.'
A further cloud hangs over the Rashed Bouresly-trained sprinter, Star Crowned, who is facing quarantine complications in returning to Dubai if he comes to contest the Hong Kong Sprint on Sunday week.
The Jockey Club does make some allowance for withdrawals after the announcement of invited runners, with the final complement of foreign visitors usually dropping closer to 30 by race day than initial 39 announced last Wednesday.
'We are hoping to announce replacements for the stayers soon, but the Sprint could be more of a problem as we don't have a ready list of reserves,' Player said. 'We are still liaising over the situation with Star Crowned and have not given up hope he will be here, but there is a doubt. We'll know more [today].'
Last time Godolphin were not represented at the International Races: 2006