Jockey Club officials last night said it was unlikely three invitees for Sunday week's Longines Hong Kong Vase would push onto the race after all were comfortably beaten in the Japan Cup in Tokyo yesterday.
Francis-Henri Graffard-trained Erupt, Ed Dunlop's Trip To Paris and Ito for Jean-Pierre Carvalho were all booked to fly from Tokyo to Hong Kong on Thursday night, but after finishing sixth, 14th and last respectively behind Shonan Pandora in the 624 million yen (HK$39.36 million) race yesterday, it looks likely that none of the trio will be headed for Sha Tin.
Dunlop, who won the Vase with the late Red Cadeaux in 2012, said his Ascot Gold Cup winner Trip To Paris had come to the end of his campaign after a long season that began in late March and would not push on to Hong Kong.
"We were a long way back, which is surprising with the good draw," he told Japanese media post-race. "He looks like he had one race too many this season. He didn't have the same spark as he had in Australia. He will have a holiday now but he will be in training next year."
The Jockey Club will confirm today whether either of the other two runners will line up on December 13 but it looks likely that the Vase field will be reduced to 11.
The option remains for other horses to be handed a berth, though, with John Size-trained Khaya - third to Flintshire last year - expected to be drafted into the field.
Once again, the locals dominated the Japan Cup - despite it looking a lacklustre year on paper for Japanese horses - with Tomokazu Takano-trained mare Shonan Pandora (Kenichi Ikezoe) just getting up in the last strides to deny Last Impact (Ryan Moore). Favourite Lovely Day (Yuga Kawada) was third.
It was a first Japan Cup for both jockey and trainer, with Takano overcome with emotion after scoring the biggest victory of his career.
"I am overwhelmed with delight and lost for words," he said. "I am usually known to be relatively calm at the races but today, I was screaming in the last 200 meters and my hands and legs were shaking."
"She's a small filly and still has a lot of races within Japan to prove her ability, so the choice to race abroad is there but not under consideration yet until I have talked with the owner."
The Japan Cup was the 100th and final leg of the Longines World's Best Jockey series, with evergreen Frankie Dettori confirmed as the award's second winner.
Amazingly, though, Moore's runner-up finish on Last Impact took him into equal second with Victor Espinoza for the title bestowed upon the English rider last year - despite missing almost three months of 2015 due to a neck injury.