Mile Challenge presents 'a nearly impossible task'
Sunday's Yasuda Kinen again showed up the difficulties in the Asian Mile Challenge and Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges believes the series is unworkable in its current format.
Engelbrecht-Bresges, who is a former Asian Racing Federation chairman, believes the Asian Mile Challenge (AMC) simply doesn't work.
'I am not on the steering committee for the AMC but I believe they have a meeting coming up to discuss what can be done as it doesn't work as it is,' he said yesterday.
With its four series legs in Melbourne, Dubai, Hong Kong and Tokyo all within 99 days this year, the AMC presented a nearly impossible task if horses were to compete successfully at more than one venue, the requirement for any of the bonus offerings.
Presvis, Thumbs Up and Beauty Flash were the only horses to run in more than one leg, with Beauty Flash managing to start in three but perhaps paying a price for that with a lacklustre effort on Sunday in Japan.
'The horses have to do too much. Maybe the races could be more spread out across the year but there are other issues,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said. 'The Dubai Duty Free at 1,800m is also a questionable part of a 1,600m series. I feel it would have more synergy with the QEII Cup than with the Champions Mile in Hong Kong afterwards.'
He said that the Australian leg, the 1,400m Futurity Stakes in late February this year, was also a flawed area.
'For various reasons, not the least of them the quarantine situation, the Australian leg is a non-starter,' he said, an acknowledgment that no foreign horse has travelled to contest that race.
'So we are left with a series that comprises Dubai-Hong Kong-Tokyo in the space of just over two months.
'The logical targets for Hong Kong milers at this side of the season are the Champions Mile and on to the Yasuda Kinen. History shows that is difficult but also that it is do-able. To go to Dubai as well just makes it too much.'
Engelbrecht-Bresges said that keeping things simpler and specifically targeting a race such as the Yasuda Kinen had to be the approach if Hong Kong was to turn around moderate overall results since Bullish Luck won the race in 2006.
Sunday's two starters brought the total to 14 Hong Kong-trained runners in that time, with only Armada's second to Vodka to show among the placings.
Japanese punters in recent editions have virtually discounted the Hong Kong runners as any threat at all - with Beauty Flash a 28-1 chance and Thumbs Up at 34-1 this year - after a period when they were treated with respect.
On the positive side, Engelbrecht-Bresges was thrilled with the simulcast holdings of more than HK$24 million on the Tokyo feature.