Rulership gives Japan food for thought
As parochial as the Jockey Club can be, there was no mistaking the value of Rulership's QE II Cup win on Sunday for the future direction of the spring international events.
Without a win since Hat Trick in December 2001, Japanese representatives for international races in Hong Kong had been declining after being the mainstay of such events not so long ago. Their role has been usurped by the French, not surprisingly given how much success horses from that nation have had recently.
Rulership's win will put Sha Tin back on the radar for the Japanese, though, it will still be a stretch to get real attention focused in Japan on the QE II and the Champions Mile due to the time of year, which coincides with a period of major racing in Japan.
While Rulership was doling out a belting to the QE II Cup field on Sunday, for example, some of the other top Japanese staying horses which might have otherwise considered Hong Kong, were engaged in Kyoto in the Group One spring Tenno Sho, the emperor's cup over 3,200m, which falls at this time every season.
And, with the Yasuda Kinen and its lead-up events between now and June, a diversion to the Champions Mile isn't exactly on the agenda for that group of Japanese stars.
Still, we'll take what we can get - two years ago an unrated sort of stayer in Never Bouchon came from Japan to finish fourth in the QE II and now Rulership, unsuccessful in five previous attempts at Group One races, has won it doing cartwheels. If that won't attract some attention, nothing will.
So we turn to the BMW Champions Mile this weekend and the secret cheer from the Jockey Club would be for Peter Moody-trained King's Rose, since you can go back even longer for an Australian success in Hong Kong. All the way to Falvelon's 2001 Hong Kong Sprint, and it shows in the participation rates. It could be argued that attraction of Hong Kong for Australian-trained horses should be higher than it apparently is - a similar style of racing and racetrack, for a start - even at this time of year.
The dates of the Australian feature racing in March and April do move around, making it often an impossible task to get here after tackling major domestic events in Sydney, and the problem is that few people with top horses there are willing to do what is necessary to be competitive here - miss something at home and roll the dice. John Hawkes did it with Dao Dao and went close to winning the Champions Mile but it was not the usual approach. Most of those who have come have done so at the end of campaigns and on the way down.
King's Rose offers a different scenario - Hong Kong-owned and on her way to Royal Ascot after missing the Doncaster due to the very wet conditions prevailing recently in Sydney. She hasn't been bottomed out by running in a race like that and may have something still in the tank.
Success or even a good performance from her might offer an alternative path for others who want to miss heavy tracks in Sydney, hardly a rarity at this time of year. As Sunday showed, a guarantee that the track won't be wet at Sha Tin may not be possible but you do have to be very unlucky to strike one.