Sha Tin's nervous wait for Aussie quarantine verdict
We hope the optimism of Jockey Club officials isn't a case of 'going the early crow' after the visit two weeks ago to Sha Tin by an Australian Quarantine and Inspection Services (AQIS) official.
There is no reason to doubt the claims the discussions were, like that old law firm, Frank & Meaningful. However, events at the weekend give weight to the idea the Australian quarantine authorities mean business at the moment on the absolute letter of their quarantine protocols.
The point of issue over the Sha Tin quarantine area was the Australian requirement that 100 metres separated quarantined horses from the rest of the horse population at all times.
Given that races and barrier trials starting in the 1,000m chute are less than 100m from the quarantine area, that was tricky, but by employing good management practices, Hong Kong had been granted concessions in the past over this issue.
Well, so too had quarantine facilities at Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle training centre in Ireland and at the peak training centre of English racing, Newmarket, but that ended at the weekend.
AQIS announced after routine inspections of those facilities that Ballydoyle and Side Hill at Newmarket are no longer regarded as suitable facilities at which to quarantine horses pre-export for Australia and the sticking point is the separation of horses.
That has sent a scare through racing authorities in the state of Victoria, where the Melbourne Cup carnival has been lifted to another dimension over the past 20 years by the participation of European and British horses.
The largest proportion of those have done their quarantine at one of the two centres mentioned, including last year's Melbourne Cup winner Americain, and the prospect of no European or British horses is unthinkable to Victoria's racing officialdom - especially after the Japanese stayers have been ruled out of returning, due to quarantine regulations, since they took out the Cup quinella a few years ago.
They may work it out between now and the Australian spring but it might also turn out to be the right year for John Moore's plan to get Mighty High to Australia for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups - as long as the AQIS report doesn't have a problem with Sha Tin's facilities when it is released next week.