Of the many hats Ronald Arculli wears or has worn, the most comfortable is the one he'll be wearing on Sunday - racehorse owner. The 64-year-old lawyer, politician, company director, businessman and chairman of the Hong Kong Jockey Jockey Club also juggles the responsibilities of husband to wife Johanna and father to five children. But with the exception of family, nothing ignites his passion quite like owning a racehorse. On Sunday at Sha Tin, Arculli will meet trainer John Size and jockey Robbie Fradd in the mounting yard in his capacity as owner of Derby hopeful River Dancer, an aristocratic Irish-bred son of the world's leading classic influence Sadler's Wells. But even at this lofty level of participation in the king of sports, Arculli is no stranger. In fact, Arculli has enjoyed the ultimate thrill in Hong Kong racing because not only did he race a past Derby winner - 1991 hero River Verdon - but he actually bred that great champion as well. He sold a 50 per cent interest in River Verdon (as an unraced griffin, freshly imported from Robert Armstrong's Newmarket yard) to his close associate Oswald Cheung, then chairman of the Jockey Club. 'At the time, the Jockey Club was trying to encourage owners who were breeding horses overseas to bring them here,' Arculli recalled. 'In those days, it cost GBP10,000 a year to keep a horse [in Britain]. It cost me nothing to breed him, and I'd owned him for two years, so I sold half to Ossie for GBP10,000. Five seasons and $19 million later, Ossie knew he had a pretty good deal.' Twelve years down the track and Arculli is starting to get that Derby feeling again. Except that the passage of time has done nothing to diminish the Derby's value - it now carries total prizemoney of $14 million and is one of Hong Kong's richest races. Half of the satisfaction will be in just making the race, because River Dancer was purchased through British bloodstock agent Charlie Gordon-Watson last year for just one purpose - to be a Derby contender in Hong Kong. The ghost of River Verdon lingers softly in the naming, as it's impossible to deny the River prefix has been a lucky one for Arculli and those fortunate enough to race horses with him. Gordon-Watson, who has the distinction of also having sold Derby favourite Bowman's Crossing, told Arculli that a quirk of nature made River Dancer available from his owners, the powerful Coolmore group in Ireland. Not only is River Dancer by Sadler's Wells, but his dam Darara was herself a Group One winner of the Prix Vermeille (the fillies' Arc de Triomphe lead-up) at Longchamp. Darara is a half-sister to the grand sire Darshaan who, in one of racing's delicious ironies, was the colt responsible for defeating none other than Sadler's Wells in the 1984 French Derby. 'Charlie explained that Coolmore had been unable to keep River Dancer a colt [gelding rendered the youngster less wilful] and that being a gelding was what made him available, because Coolmore is only looking for future stallions,' Arculli explained. When it came to choosing a trainer for his valuable new acquisition, Arculli again proved that preparation and luck make great teammates. 'At the time I was chairman of the licensing committee and in that capacity, I obviously had something to do with this new trainer John Size coming to Hong Kong,' Arculli continued. 'Was it a gesture of good faith or good judgment that I chose John? I'd like to think a little of both.' River Dancer, who raced in Europe as Diaghilev, was selected by Demi O'Byrne as a yearling. At 3.4 million guineas, he was one of the most expensive yearlings in the world in 2000. As a three-year-old, he won a three-year-old maiden at Leopardstown over 2,000 metres and then claimed the Group Three Prix la Force over the same distance on soft ground at Chantilly, France. He was unsuccessful in the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and the Group Two Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot before his sale to Hong Kong. River Dancer has raced three times since arriving in the SAR and has shown quantum improvement with every run. But prior to his last start, Arculli admits to an unusual level of nervousness about the result. 'I was worried leading into that race because the horse had a rating of 100 and a bad performance could have seen him drop in the ratings, and thereby jeopardise a Derby start,' he explained. 'But I need not have worried - he ran very well, his best performance yet.' Like the majority of form students, Arculli believes that top Derby fancies Bowman's Crossing and Elegant Fashion stand out on what they've shown to date. 'But apart from those two, it's very even. John seems to be very happy with him [River Dancer] and from what I can gather, he was quite pleased with the way he trialed last Friday morning.' Putting his Jockey Club hat back on, Arculli said the position is 'taking a bit more of my time than I had envisaged'. His first big agenda item, and the one which has been dominating his time, is 'to get football betting rolling out and being successful'. While the completion of that goal is at least within sight, his next mountain to conquer is significantly more challenging. 'We need to find ways to convince the government to change the betting duty on horse racing,' he said. 'It happened in the UK, with government changing to a tax on profits, so it can happen. But it's not going to be easy - it's rather like climbing Mt Everest backwards, it's a big task.'