The shock withdrawal of Hong Kong's top-rated horse Indigenous just 24 hours after declarations last Sunday has left today's inaugural running of the Chinese New Year Cup in tatters. It was meant to be a New Year clash with the superb Johan Cruyff that would make the adrenalin flow rather than get the totalisator clicking over. Now it appears to be, on paper anyway, little more than a romp for the Patrick Biancone-trained Johan Cruyff. Indigenous, rated 142 and winner of the Invitation Vase on December 13, was found to be lame left fore on Monday morning. The Chinese New Year Cup now sees only five runners going to post, other hopefuls or possible challengers having already been scared off by the prospect of facing the two titans of Hong Kong racing, Indigenous and Johan Cruyff. From the Jockey Club's standpoint it is a going to be a betting disaster and certainly gives them support for the decision to have 10 races at Sha Tin until the end of the season. The payout on first place will cost the Jockey Club money as it is certain to be the minimum $10.50 - unless the unthinkable happens and Johan Cruyff does not run in the first two. The departure of Indigenous robs the programme of a high degree of interest as his clash with Johan Cruyff would have been a meeting of giants taking place against a backdrop of controversy and resentment. Indigenous, like arch-rival Johan Cruyff, was due to resume racing after his magnificent effort on December 13, although neither horse was going to be at his peak as more important races lie ahead. The Cup race is over 1,600 metres and that favours Hong Kong Derby winner Johan Cruyff, who now should have little more than a strong exercise gallop to dispose of his four lesser rivals. The controversy in relation to the two horses surrounded the recently released international classifications which were partly based on the recommendations of local handicapper, Martyn Stewart. It will now remain temporarily unsettled as we must await their expected clash in the Group One Gold Cup next month. Indigenous, on 142 points Hong Kong's highest-rated horse, scored a superb victory in the International Vase, accounting for New Zealand galloper Darazari and several quality runners from Europe. Stewart recommended an international rating of 116 and after some to-ing and fro-ing, he was accorded a figure of 115. Johan Cruyff, who finished a superb second to Japanese winner Midnight Bet in the showpiece International Cup, was given one point more. In the local ratings, he is seven points inferior to Indigenous. Today's race is a terms event with Johan Cruyff and Oriental Express carrying 130 pounds and Benji, Championship and Hornet allotted 123. The one contentious point out of the overall handicapping in the wake of the International Races was the decision to put up Johan Cruyff just one point in the local ratings despite the quality of his second place. Oriental Express, who just six months earlier had run the race of his life in the Yasuda Kinen in Tokyo, was easily beaten by Johan Cruyff in the International Cup and was eased down two points. The top three in the ratings completely dwarf the minor challenges of Benji, Championship and Hornet - the last named to be ridden by apprentice Willy W. Y. Kan although no allowance is claimed. Hornet is trained by Brian Kan Ping-chee, who is not a believer in having his horses eat their heads off at home. But Hornet, although he has had an excellent season which may not be over just yet, comes into this rated no less than 34 points lower than Johan Cruyff, from whom he receives seven pounds. That looks a racing impossibility and Championship, from the David Hayes stable, faces a similarly awesome task. There is evidence to support the view that he will continue to improve and that the mile is just within his current scope. But it is a mighty step up in class for Championship, who holds an entry for next month's Derby. Benji ran a better race last time but has had so many problems over the seasons that it is impossible to side with him these days. Oriental Express was defeated squarely by Johan Cruyff last time and with no weight concession again, it looks difficult for the Allan-trained Horse of the Year to turn around International Cup form. Johan Cruyff faces a tough programme over the next four months, which should end with a run in the Yasuda Kinen. He is also certain to clash with Indigenous on several occasions later in the season, most likely in the Gold Cup and the Champions and Chater Cup, the final two legs of the Triple Crown. On the debit side, Johan Cruyff has had an interrupted preparation as he was due to go to Melbourne for the Group One Australia Cup at Flemington on March 8. But he was taken out of that when he lost weight rapidly after he entered pre-export quarantine. How much all that ends up mattering remains to be seen. Over today's trip, the odds are now ridiculously in favour of Johan Cruyff but this is definitely a race to watch.