'There is much more chance of you winning the Triple Trio than there is of this [foot-and-mouth] infection'
Champion Fairy King Prawn restated his world class quality with victory yesterday but trainer Ivan Allan was not celebrating. Instead, Allan lashed out angrily at the horse's likely exclusion from his defence of the Group One Yasuda Kinen title in Japan.
The Hong Kong Jockey Club informed Allan of a communication it had received from the Japan Racing Association that Fairy King Prawn would not be allowed to compete in Japan as he had raced in Dubai and carried the risk of foot-and-mouth infection. But Japanese horses which raced at the same Dubai World Cup meeting last month have been allowed back into their home country to race.
'Someone somewhere has to tell them to pull their fingers out,' Allan railed after watching the gelding demolish the Chairman's Sprint Prize field at Sha Tin yesterday. 'They have to start to be sincere. Either it's open or it's not. You can't say one thing and do another.'
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is also hugely disappointed with the decision and plans to take the issue into the diplomatic arena. Director of racing Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said the Club would ask the Hong Kong Government to take up the matter with Tokyo at government level.
'Japanese horses also raced in Dubai and they have no problem returning to Japan to race,' he said. 'Some people would perhaps look at this situation and say that it was protectionism by the Japanese. I am not saying that, but I can see how some people might say it.
'For the Jockey Club, we are very disappointed with this decision and we feel we have an obligation for the owner [Lau Sak-hong] and for our Hong Kong trainer Ivan Allan, to stand up for them in this situation so that Fairy King Prawn gets fair treatment and the chance to show that he will still be the best miler in Japan.'
The blame for the ban has been somewhat ambiguous, with the Japan Racing Association saying it is a government ban and the Japanese Government insisting the JRA makes the decision on which horses receive invitations to its races.
'We will try to make clear to the Japan Racing Association that, as a member of the Asian Racing Conference, they should be doing everything in their power to get their Government to allow this horse to compete,' Engelbrecht-Bresges said.
'If the Government said of the Japanese horses who went to Dubai, 'OK, that's it, you cannot come back in', then that would be different and we would not argue but in the world of international competition it is only fair that the same rules apply to everyone.
'It is difficult to understand and we have asked our Government to relay our view to the Japanese Government and we will be speaking to the Japanese Consul-General in Hong Kong.'
The Hong Kong Jockey Club is also asking the representative of the Japanese Racehorse Owners' Association, in Hong Kong for last week's International Racehorse Owners Forum at Sha Tin, to take up the Fairy King Prawn case.
'I mean, really there is much more chance of you winning the Triple Trio than there is of this infection,' said Engelbrecht-Bresges. 'The best advice in the world is that there is no risk of this from horses coming out of the kind of stabling environment we have here in Hong Kong, where everything going in or out is so closely monitored.'
Allan, who also sent Indigenous to finish runner-up in the Japan Cup, was scathing in his criticism of the closed-door policy favoured by Japanese racing. 'Japanese owners can own horses racing in Europe but a European owner cannot own a horse racing in Japan,' he said. 'It's time they decided whether it's an open market or it's not an open market.'
Throughout the decade or so of Hong Kong's international races, Japanese horses have been free to compete in them, although none was invited for yesterday's Queen Elizabeth II Cup after the Hong Kong Jockey Club felt the Japanese entries had not been up to the required standard.